Bull trout lawsuit dismissed as moot

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the three federal operators of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. He ruled that the agencies were already consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on bull trout, as is required by law.

A federal judge has dismissed as moot an Endangered Species Act lawsuit over 26 Northwest dams and their potential impacts on the threatened bull trout.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies nonprofit filed a complaint against several federal agencies — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration — that operate the dams in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The lawsuit alleged the federal agencies unlawfully failed to “consult” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about whether the dams adversely affect the bull trout’s habitat.

The environmental plaintiff claimed the federal government was required to re-initiate this consultation after more than 488,000 acres were designated as “critical habitat” for the species in 2010.

The Roza and Kennewick irrigation districts in Washington voluntarily intervened as defendants in the lawsuit, fearing the federal government would be forced to stop operating dams they rely on for water until the consultation was complete.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez has dismissed the case because the federal defendants have re-initiated consultation over the dams’ impacts and “provided plaintiff with the precise relief that it has sought.”

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies argued the case should be kept alive until the consultation was finished or the federal government was ordered to issue a “biological opinion” about the potential jeopardy posed by the dams.

However, Hernandez rejected the argument because the environmental group had accused the government of improperly following procedure but not of committing a “substantive violation” of the Endangered Species Act.

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