U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea on July 29 issued a temporary restraining order barring the shipment Hawaiian garbage up the Columbia River Gorge to Roosevelt Regional Landfill for at least 30 days.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had earlier approved shipments of the garbage to begin on Friday, July 30 despite concerns raised by environmental groups and the Yakama Nation.
The restraining order is necessary, according the plaintiffs, because the federal "defendants refuse to delay implementation" of their garbage import agreements pending briefing by the parties and decision in district court regarding a preliminary injunction, according to a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction filed July 28 by Friends of Columbia Gorge, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Columbia Riverkeeper and two individuals.
Shea's order said "there are serious questions relating to whether the USDA adequately analyzed the environmental impacts of shipment and receipt of Hawaiian waste into the mainland, and in particular, receipt into a Washington or Oregon port followed by transport and burial into the Roosevelt Landfill, which is located on lands ceded by the Yakama Nation in Washington in close proximity to the Columbia River."
The judge, serving in the Eastern District of Washington, said the plaintiffs passed the "irreparable harm" test. Parties must show they will suffer harm in absence of a restraining order.
"The Roosevelt Landfill is located in the area in which tribal members exercise their 'in common' hunting, gathering, and fishing rights protected by the 1855 Treaty," the judge wrote. "The introduction of an invasive species or contamination by the Hawaiian garbage would immeasurably harm the resources and waterways enjoyed by the tribal members, the Plaintiff organizations, and the two individual Plaintiffs, as well as the Tribe's logging industry."
"The USDA has an interest in encouraging economic growth, and Hawaii has an interest in having its garbage taken care off. However, the Plaintiffs' interests of ensuring that the environmental impacts, and the related economic consequences resulting from those environmental impacts, are fully considered before Hawaiian garbage is shipped to the mainland, trumps these interests," the judge said.
Shea's order says that until he rules on the motion for preliminary injunction the involved federal agencies cannot shipments of Hawaiian garbage into the mainland.
As an example, the tribal request said that "he area around the Landfill is close enough to timber habitat that if a treeboring insect was introduced, it would have devastating effect on the Yakama Nation's timber management and harvesting activities.
"Similarly devastating effect would result from decimation of riparian trees like black cottonwoods and aspens, which provide cover for watersheds and fish habitat, the tribal brief says."Any adverse effect on the habitat could harm the game, like deer and grouse, that Yakamas hunt, the salmon and steelhead that Yakamas fish, and the roots and herbs that Yakamas gather for food and medicine."
"During today's hearing, the federal court expressly recognized the importance of the 1855 treaty between the Yakama Nation and the United States. The court acknowledged that the proposed shipping of garbage threatens sacred tribal lands and rights and could harm the Yakama peoples' way of life," said Yakama Nation Councilwoman Athena Sanchey-Yallup following a July hearing regarding the restraining order.
The plaintiffs seek halt garbage shipments until the environmental impacts of transporting garbage, which is potentially laden with invasive species, are thoroughly analyzed and tribal consultation requirements are met.
"Judge Shea's decision today means that the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the region's agricultural base, and the Yakama Nation's tribal treaty rights are safe for at least another 30 days," said Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. "We are hopeful that this decision will cause the USDA to step back and fully examine the very real threat of harmful invasive species being introduced into the Gorge by the importation of this garbage."
Hawaiian garbage is currently stored in plastic covered bales at an industrial site in Honolulu, awaiting the 2,500 mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Final approval by the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Services early last week had cleared the way for garbage to be shipped to Longview, Wash., where it would have been loaded on to rail cars and hauled through the Gorge to the landfill approximately 40 miles east of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
The gorge is home to five ecosystems that support 800 species of native plants, including 16 rare plants found nowhere else in the world and dozens of sensitive animal species dependent on these ecosystems, according to the conservation groups. The gorge is also an important fruit-growing region and has a burgeoning wine.
The court's temporary restraining order can be found at: http://www.gorgefriends.org/downloads/hawaii.garbage.tro..pdf