Conservationists have announced plans to sue the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service for failing to have a pollution discharge permit for the
Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in central Washington.
The Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Wild
Fish Conservancy sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the Service this
week, claiming that the hatchery is discharging pollutants into Icicle Creek
without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, a violation
of the Clean Water Act.
The plaintiffs contend that the Service has not had a permit
for the hatchery since Aug. 31, 1979.
“Federal law requires the hatchery to operate in a manner
that protects Icicle Creek and downstream waters from pollution,” said Dan Von
Seggern, staff attorney for CELP. “Compliance with the Clean Water Act will
preserve these water resources while allowing the hatchery to continue to
augment salmon runs.”
Hatchery Manager Dave Carie said he cannot comment on any
pending litigation against the Service.
Amanda Smith, a public affairs officer with the Service
based in Portland, said she also could not comment, and she declined to say why
the hatchery has not had a pollution discharge permit for 35 years.
The plaintiffs maintain that pollutants released from the
hatchery into Icicle Creek include disease control chemicals, pathogens,
nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics, chemicals used for disinfection, residual
chemical reagents and salt and chlorinated the water.
Phosphorus loading, they add, contributes to violations of
water quality standards in the Wenatchee River, which has a confluence with
Icicle Creek about three miles downstream from the hatchery.
“Over the past 15 years we have worked with local citizens
and representatives of state, federal and tribal agencies to try to get the
Leavenworth Hatchery to comply with state and federal law to protect and
restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act and to
restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem,” said Kurt Beardslee,
executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “It is discouraging to realize
that yet again the hatchery blatantly disregards its legal obligation and the
needs of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. The saddest part of this is the public is
unknowingly paying for it.”