This week, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Hood River Waterfront and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center filed a second formal notice of intent to sue in order to protect endangered fish species in Columbia River from a major development, which was approved on Monday by the Hood River City Council.
The joint notice of intent was filed by Cascadia Law’s attorney, Erin Madden, of Portland and Brent Foster, attorney for Center for Biological Diversity.
The suit is against a massive waterfront development planned by NBW Hood River, known as the Nichols Landing project, which would include a hotel, commercial buildings, a wake-boarding park and a restaurant to be built with an expansion over the river.
The Center’s notice alleges numerous violations of NBW Hood River’s state pollution permit related to its handling of construction fill materials now being stored at the site. The case will also challenge the fact that the proposed commercial building would be built in the Columbia River despite the fact that NBW Hood River has no current application for the federal Clean Water Act permits required for such development.
“Poor practices on the proposed development site are leading to pollution of important salmon habitat in the Columbia River,” said Linda Maddox, with Friends of the Hood River Waterfront. “Their permit requires that they mulch or seed any stockpiles of dirt left on site, yet we have watched for well over a year as these piles expand in number and just sit there totally exposed next to the river. Moreover, the little sediment fence they have is very often down because they’ve put it below the ordinary water level where it’s useless in preventing pollution from the river.”
The project would include a 45,000-square-foot Hampton Inn, 20,000 square feet of commercial space and a 230-space parking lot. The development company also wants to build a motorized wakeboarding park that would include large crane-like structures and a network of metal cables in a section of the Columbia River known as the “boat basin.”
The conservation group contends that in addition to affecting 11 runs of threatened and endangered species, including Chinook salmon and steelhead, the 10-acre wakeboard facility, which would be regulated under the state’s amusement-park regulations, would shut out kayakers, windsurfers, triathlon swimmers and standup paddle boarders who currently use the area.
“The Columbia River generally, and this area specifically, has real importance for salmon — if there was ever a place where federal water-pollution laws needed to be followed, this is it,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Building this sprawling development will harm salmon and the Hood River waterfront.”
There are nine populations of Chinook salmon that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which states that habitat of fish and animals protected by the ACT must be safeguarded.
Chinook salmon are also a main source of food for Puget Sound Orca whales.
Additionally, they are highly coveted by Native American tribes for cultural reasons and highly prized by commercial fishermen.
In April 2008, commercial fisheries in both Oregon and California were closed due to the extremely low population of Chinook salmon present.
Information about the Center’s river protection campaigns can be found here.