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Grant PUD will obtain Clean Water Act permit despite lawsuit by Columbia Riverkeeper

Lawsuit undermines good-faith effort to achieve mutual clean-water goals

EPHRATA — Grant PUD will not alter its plan to apply for and obtain a Clean Water Act pollutant-discharge permit for Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, despite the recent lawsuit filed by Columbia Riverkeeper.

The lawsuit follows months of intensive analysis, dialog with Riverkeeper and commitment to avoid litigation and meet Riverkeeper's demand that Grant PUD take all necessary actions to obtain the pollutant-discharge permit.

However, Grant PUD can't agree to Riverkeeper's insistence that the Washington State Department of Ecology take final action on this permit application within a four-year period. This is out of Grant PUD's control.

The state Department of Ecology has previously certified that operation of Grant PUD's dams complies with state and federal water-quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Based in part on this certification, Grant PUD believes it has operated its dams as a good environmental steward, in full compliance with all applicable laws. Detailed procedures and appropriate equipment are in place to properly report and respond to any potential, unexpected petroleum releases into the Columbia River that could occur from the operations at the two dams.

Grant PUD is also committed to taking additional steps Riverkeeper has requested in recent settlement negotiations to further protect and enhance the Columbia River. These include:

  • Apply for a Clean Water Act pollutant-discharge permit for our dams, the primary impetus of the Riverkeeper suit.
  • Work with the permit issuer, the state Department of Ecology, to advance the timely issuance of the pollutant-discharge permit under the Clean Water Act and give Riverkeeper quarterly updates on the permit-application process.
  • Test and assess feasibility of switching from current lubricants to "Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants" for components at the dams that have the potential for pollution discharge. Grant PUD would switch to the new lubricants in a timely manner, if feasible. This analysis is already underway.
  • Prepare annual reports accounting for all oils, greases and lubricants delivered to the dams for machinery that could contact the Columbia River. The reports would track oil use to help identify leaks that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Grant PUD is fully committed to protecting and enhancing the water resources of the Columbia Basin. The utility will apply for the Clean Water Act pollutant‑discharge permit by May 31, 2019, even if Grant PUD has not reached a settlement with Riverkeeper.

Time, money and effort spent on real, meaningful enhancement of water and natural resources is a far better investment than the costs of litigation, especially when mutual agreement is attainable and close at hand.

The suit was filed March 26 in U.S, District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.