Leavenworth Hatchery Violating Clean Water Act

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery - photo by John Osborn

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery – photo by John Osborn

Today, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) and Wild Fish Conservancy sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Daniel M. Ashe in his official capacity as the Director of FWS for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) associated with the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery.

FWS is discharging pollutants into Icicle Creek from the Hatchery without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit which is in direct violation of section 301(a) of the CWA. FWS has not held a NPDES permit for the Hatchery since August 31, 1979.

“Federal law requires the Hatchery to operate in a manner that protects Icicle Creek and downstream waters from pollution,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for CELP. “Compliance with the Clean Water Act will preserve these water resources while allowing the Hatchery to continue to augment salmon runs.”

Icicle Creek - photo by John Osborn

Icicle Creek – photo by John Osborn

Pollutants released from the Hatchery to Icicle Creek include but are not limited to: disease control chemicals, pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics, chemicals used for disinfection and other fish culture purposes, residual chemical reagents and salt and chlorinated water. The wastewater discharged by the Hatchery contains excess phosphorus and violations of the applicable water quality criterion for pH have been recorded in lower Icicle Creek as a result. This phosphorus loading also contributes to violations of water quality standards in the Wenatchee River.

“By not having a current NPDES permit, the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery has been in violation of the Clean Water Act for thirty five years,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Over the past fifteen years we have worked with local citizens and representatives of state, federal, and tribal agencies to try to get the Leavenworth Hatchery to comply with state and federal law to protect and restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act and to restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. It is discouraging to realize that yet again the Hatchery blatantly disregards its legal obligations and the needs of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. The saddest part of this is the public is unknowingly paying for it.”

The Leavenworth National Hatchery was constructed between 1939 and 1941 near Leavenworth, WA and is located on the banks of Icicle Creek approximately three miles from the river’s confluence with the Wenatchee River. The Hatchery has a long history of violations of federal environmental laws. Despite repeated attempts, including litigation, the facility continues to be in violation of the CWA and ESA.

The groups are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR