A US federal court has ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) operation of the four Snake river dams (Ice Har-bour, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite) violates the Clean Water Act. Complying with the decision could cost the agency millions of dollars in modifying the dams and protecting endangered salmon in eastern Washington state. The District Court in Portland has ordered USACE to find ways – within 60 days – to lower water temperatures behind the dams to protect the river’s water quality as well as its threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead trout.

Action against USACE was filed by environmental and aboriginal groups fighting to remove the four Snake dams. It has been alleged that the dams raise water temperatures and add levels of nitrogen which violate water quality standards. The Nez Perce tribe and the state of Oregon also joined the lawsuit.