Willamette Riverkeeper and the Conservation Angler filed a second
amended complaint in U.S. District Court that asks the court, among other
things, to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop releasing hatchery
produced summer steelhead and rainbow trout into the North and South Santiam
rivers. The complaint was filed in the Eugene Division of the District Court
June 20, 2018.
The first amended complaint was filed September 15, 2017. It
describes in detail how hatchery produced summer steelhead and rainbow trout
impact wild upper Willamette River steelhead, listed as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act, leading to the wild stock’s decline.
Prior to the first amended complaint, the Corps had completed
contracts with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to operate four Corps
hatcheries in the Willamette River basin that produced and released summer
steelhead smolts and a second contract with a private company, Desert Springs
Trout Farm in Summer Lake, to produce rainbow trout for planting in Oregon
lakes and streams. Those actions should, in themselves, have triggered an ESA
consultation with NOAA, the groups say.
They filed their initial brief May 22, 2017 in a suit that
challenged the Corps for releasing hatchery produced summer run steelhead in
upper Willamette River tributaries, saying the federal agency is in violation
of the ESA. The groups asked the Court to force the Corps to stop producing the
summer steelhead until the agency initiates an ESA consultation with NOAA
Consultations have yet to happen, the second amended complaint
says, calling the Corps actions “irreversible and/or irretrievable commitments
of resources before it completes reinitiated consultation.”
Willamette River wild winter steelhead were listed as threatened
under the ESA in March 1999 and the two groups say the hatchery summer
steelhead released from Corps-owned Marion Forks and South Santiam hatcheries
and stocked for a sport fishery are contributing to the wild winter steelhead
The Willamette Riverkeeper said it had filed much earlier a suit
against the Corps and other federal agencies to force them to consult with NOAA
as to the impacts of federal projects in the Willamette River basin. That
consultation resulted in the 2008 biological opinion of the federal facilities.
However, since the BiOp was issued, “new information and data
reveal that releases of summer steelhead trout into the South Santiam River
basin and the North Santiam River basin harm and impede recovery of winter
steelhead trout to an extent not previously considered or evaluated in the
BiOp.” the groups said in the June 20 complaint.
Some of the new information is genetic analysis, which identified
about 10 percent of the juvenile steelhead at Willamette Falls as summer x
winter-run hybrids, the complaint says. Similar analyses identified 11.1
percent of the steelhead trout in the North Santiam River as summer x
winter-run hybrids and about 14.8 percent of steelhead trout in the South Santiam
River are summer x winter-run hybrids.
“Hybridization among winter steelhead trout and summer steelhead
trout in the North Santiam River and the South Santiam River decreases
productivity of the winter steelhead trout population,” the complaint says.
From 1990 to 2005, an average of 2,149 winter steelhead trout
“natural spawners” returned to the South Santiam River, according to the
groups. However, by 2017 just 18 winter steelhead had returned. The average on
the North Santiam River for the same period was 2,109 winter steelhead, but by
September 2017, the number had dropped to 168 fish.
One of the Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives of the 2008 BiOp is
that the Corps and other federal agencies will implement Hatchery and Genetic
Management Plans for, among other hatchery fish, summer steelhead, after NOAA
approves of the plans. Yet, the Corps has yet to submit the HGMPs, they said.
As a result, the “Corps’ continued authorization, funding, or
carrying out of the hatchery summer steelhead program jeopardizes the continued
existence of winter steelhead.”
In the end, the relief the groups ask is for the court to issue
declaratory judgements that the Corps has:
1. violated Section 7 of the ESA by jeopardizing the continued
existence of winter steelhead in the upper Willamette River basin, and by
failing to reinitiate consultation with NOAA as to effects on winter steelhead
trout of the release of summer steelhead trout into the North and South Santiam
2. violated Section 7 of the ESA by making irreversible and/or
irretrievable commitments of resources before completing reinitiation of
3. violated Section 9 of the ESA by causing take of winter
steelhead trout and spring chinook salmon through release of hatchery rainbow
trout upstream of Foster Dam on the South Santiam and Detroit Dam on the North
In addition, the groups want the court to order the Corps to stop
funding the production and release of summer steelhead trout into both North
and South Santiam rivers, and to order the Corps to stop producing and
releasing rainbow trout into the rivers.
--CBB, September 22, 2017, “Groups Amend
Complaint In Wild Upper Willamette Winter Steelhead Litigation,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439597.aspx.
-- CBB, June 9,
2017, “Groups Sue Corps Over Upper Willamette Summer-Run Steelhead Hatchery
Releases; Says Harm Wild Fish” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439056.aspx.