Lawsuit seeks reports on Oregon dams’ structural integrity
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An environmental group in Oregon has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not providing information about the structural integrity of Willamette River dams south of Portland.
The lawsuit, filed by Willamette Riverkeeper, stems from the Corps releasing a plan in January calling for restrictions on water levels behind Hills Creek and Lookout Point dams near Oakridge, Springfield and Eugene, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The plan said higher water levels could increase the risk of dam failure and refers to reports on the dams.
Willamette Riverkeeper filed a public records request in March for the reports and other safety and risk assessments, but the group has yet to receive the requested information or a timeline on when it would be delivered.
“I think it begged the question for us at the very least to say, ‘What does the Corps know about the structural integrity of these 13 large dams in the Willamette River system?’” Willamette Riverkeeper Executive Director Travis Williams said. “There’s a lot that we should be able to know about all those dams, most of which have significant reservoirs behind them.”
Williams argued that if the dams need repairs, the work could open the door to adding fish passage for salmon and other environmental and conservation efforts.
The group also sued the Corps over what it calls a failure to protect threatened and endangered species of salmon and steelhead in its management of the dams. The dams were built for flood control, irrigation and hydropower, and none have fish ladders to help the fish maneuver around them.
“There could be opportunities if we’re looking 10, 15 years down the road to both improve the condition of a project if it has issues and make it have less of an impact on our river system,” Williams said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.