A Spring Chinook Salmon in the McKenzie River, a key Willamette tributary for the recovery of the species. Photo by: David Herasimtschuk, Freshwaters Illustrated

Willamette Dams Litigation - Legal Rulings and Implementation Reports

On September 1, 2021, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez issued a final opinion and order directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to immediately undertake new measures at dams in the Willamette basin to prevent the extinction of threatened Upper Willamette River wild spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead.

In the final order, Judge Hernandez found that these measures were necessary because, “[a]s evinced by the listed species’ continuing decline, the Corps’ failure to provide adequate fish passage and mitigate water quality issues is causing substantial, irreparable harm to the salmonids.”

This is a major victory in our work to ReWild the Willamette and set the wild Salmon and Steelhead back on the road to recovery.

Below are associated court filings relating to the case and ongoing implementation of the court's injunctive order.


Willamette Basin Bi-Annual Status Report - February 28, 2022

The first bi-annual status report for the implementation of the injunctive order is provided below. This report provides an overview of the actions undertaken and the initial research, monitoring, and evaluation work completed.


Final Opinion and Injunctive Order - September 1, 2021

Judge Hernandez's legal opinion finding that the Corps has the authority to implement measures that benefit threatened fish species and the court-ordered operational and infrastructural measures that must be undertaken. These include measures like deep drawdowns of reservoirs, increased spill over dams, and changes to hydropower generation that will improve downstream fish passage for juvenile Salmon and Steelhead along with measures that will improve water quality downstream of dams.


Summary Judgement - August 17, 2020

Judge Hernandez's finding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) failed to take necessary steps to ensure the survival and recovery of threatened Salmon and Steelhead in the Willamette River Basin. The Court ruled favorably for us on all three of our ESA claims, holding that the Corps: 1) failed to carry out “several of the most important [required] measures” related to fish passage and water quality, 2) is jeopardizing and unlawfully taking Upper Willamette Chinook salmon and steelhead, and 3) the agency’s significant delay in reinitiating consultation was “a substantial procedural violation of the ESA.”

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