Environmental Activist Groups Sue Dam Owners to Stop the Take of Native Fish

On Wednesday, activist group Waterwatch of Oregon filed a complaint in the District of Oregon against Q Bar X Ranch to stop the “take” of salmon at Pomeroy Dam as the water diversion system allegedly disrupts the salmon natural habitat and behaviors.

The South Oregon Coast Coho salmon are a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that live in the Illinois River near the Pomeroy Dam, a property owned by the defendant, per the complaint. Waterwatch claimed that the Dam is “blocking or impeding adult salmon migration and access to spawning and rearing habitat; harming or killing adult salmon in their efforts to traverse the Dam to migrate or spawn; causing conditions that raise temperatures in the stream to levels that stress and/or injure, and/or kill Southern Oregon Coast Coho.” This is because the Dam has caused an increased temperature in their habitat, prevented migration and increased sedimentation which has harmed an already vulnerable population, according to Waterwatch.

Waterwatch argued that instead of Pomeroy Dam being used to divert water onto the properties of Q Bar X Ranch, “modern fish-friendly” methods could be used to accomplish the same task. Furthermore, the Dam does not meet “the criteria, rationale, and guidelines for design of adequate safe, timely, and efficient fish passage published by NMFS and as set forth in Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife” due to how it prevents fish migrations. The plaintiff seeks to use their “extensive experience with obtaining funding and working with expert contractors” to remove Pomeroy Dam and end the take of the salmon and other species that live in the Illinois River.

The plaintiff is seeing a declaration that the defendants have violated the salmon 4(d) rule and the ESA by failing to provide adequate fish passage and safe operation at the Pomeroy Dam, injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from continuing to manage the dam, removal of the dam entirely, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.

Waterwatch is represented by EarthJustice.