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LibbyMt.com > News > July 2006 > CGNW may also sue over Libby Dam spill

CGNW may also sue over Libby Dam spill
High water helps fish; floods people
by KLCB News
July 7, 2006

Communities for a Great Northwest (CGNW) has advised federal officials that it will file a lawsuit for violation of federal law if the U. S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Corps of Engineers continue with plans to release water with the premise to “save” endangered fish, namely the Kootenai River White Sturgeon.

Communities for a Great Northwest wrote twelve federal officials, including the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Commander and Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as required by the “60-day notice” provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The grass-roots group advised the officials that the Corps’s planned action, as contained in its most recent environmental statement, would violate federal law and result in flooding at Libby.

The group maintains the Corps of Engineers should know better given the disastrous results the last time the Corps did a spill like the one it now proposes. Just last month, the Corps spilled upwards of 54-thousand cfs; 25-thousand power house capacity with the rest going over the spillway, in what the Corps claims was a flood control operation. The result had the same outcome; extreme water levels and above flood stage at Boners Ferry.

As a result of a lawsuit by environmental groups, the Corps of Engineers is reevaluating its operations at Libby and Hungry Horse Dams as they relate to species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

In November 2005, the Corps released a draft environmental impact statement stating a preference to increase flows at Libby Dam to 25,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).

In the April 2006, Upper Columbia Alternative Flood Control and Fish Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement, however, the Corps decided to increase flows to 35,000 cfs. Not only is the rate proposed by the Corps 10,000 cfs above the capacity of the powerhouse, a similar spill by the Corps in 2002 flooded several Libby homes and businesses and resulted in significant crops losses in Bonner's Ferry, as did another huge spill in June of this year.

Libby residents, especially those in developed areas along the Kootenai, believe the threats to them and their property as a result of the Corps’ plan have not been considered by the federal government.

Communities for a Great Northwest believes the action proposed by the Corps violates the ESA, the Clean Water Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

CGNW advised the officials that, if the Corps selects the alternative that the Corps favors, CGNW will file suit in federal district court in Montana or in Washington, D.C. An earlier CGNW lawsuit earned a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the Communities for a Great Northwest is a “suitable champion” for litigating on behalf of local residents.

Story by KLCB News, Libby Radio, www.bestcountryaround.com

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