The Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery violates the Clean Water Act by operating without a pollution permit to discharge into a creek, a federal judge has ruled.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery near Leavenworth is violating the federal Clean Water Act by operating without a pollution discharge permit, according to a U.S. District Court ruling released Monday.
The hatchery water is released into Icicle Creek, a Wenatchee River tributary that drains a portion of the Alpine Lake Wilderness. The discharges may include fish food, fecal matter, chemicals, antibiotics and other pollutants, according to the ruling that found the hatchery has operated without the required permit since 1979.
Leavenworth is part of a complex of three federal hatcheries that release fish into the Upper Columbia drainages. The hatcheries were built to help compensate for the loss of seagoing salmon and other runs above Grand Coulee dam, which was built without fish passage.
The ruling by Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr. results from a 2015 lawsuit filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy over the discharges into Icicle Creek by the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, which rears salmon, steelhead and other fish.
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The hatchery had a discharge permit in the 1970s but that expired, leaving the hatchery in violation. EPA at times has issued draft discharge permits that were never finalized.
The most recent draft permit was issued by the EPA last month. The 89-page document would place restrictions on the types — and amounts — of discharges into Icicle Creek. It is now open for public comment.
Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, said that there are particular concerns, during low water flows, over phosphorus pollution that can fuel algae growth that lowers oxygen levels in Icicle Creek. He called the permit “a step in the right direction.”
Dan Von Seggern, a staff attorney for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, said that the hatchery, which raises about 1.2 million fish annually, suffers from decades of deferred maintenance and needs serious upgrades.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official said that the judge’s ruling has been received and the findings are being reviewed.