The Roundup -

Lawsuit Threatening LYIP Ramps Up

Buses Headed to Great Falls Thursday, April 19. Your Support is Critical

 

January 31, 2018 | View PDF



The Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council (plaintiffs) continue their ongoing battle with Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation (defendants), focused only on the comeback of a wild pre-historic fish. The defendants are attempting to balance the survival of the pallid sturgeon with the well being of thousands of people from Glendive to Williston, as well as allowing an entire ecosystem to thrive.

In their summary brief to the district court, the plaintiffs are now plainly going after the current ongoing operations of LYIP, asking for the complete removal of the Intake dam. Their solution to providing irrigation water would be to install pumps along the river, a solution which would be environmentally damaging, as well as cost prohibitive for farmers.

The plaintiffs seem to have suddenly realized what the agencies have been saying for years; that without action to achieve fish passage, the existing wild sturgeon would be too old to spawn by approximately 2018. “It’s frustrating because, if they hadn’t filed their lawsuit, the bypass would have been working in 2018,” LYIP manager James Brower said. Instead of allowing a solution that would have benefitted all concerned, the plaintiffs are asking for complete removal of the dam.

In a rather ironic twist, while the plaintiffs want an absolute guarantee that the fish bypass will work, they are trying to force the USACE to try highly experimental solutions at Fort Peck to help achieve wild pallid sturgeon survival on the Missouri River. If the USACE is forced into multi-million dollar changes, including methods to warm the water that is released from the dam in the spring, there is a possibility that funding could be diverted from the Intake project. Adding insult to injury, if the Bureau of Reclamation is forced to remove the Intake dam, farmers could end up having to reimburse them.

The district court meets in Great Falls on April 19th to decide these huge issues and issue a final ruling. It is critical that as many people as possible from this area attend the hearing to show support for the Intake project.

On March 5th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the appeal filed by the agencies and LYIP against the injunction on the fish bypass and concrete weir imposed by Judge Brian Morris in 2017. That court should rule in two to three weeks, hopefully directing a more reasonable legal standard for the district court. “A favorable ruling from the 9th Circuit Court would provide momentum going in to the district court hearing,” Brower explained.

Brower said that what the plaintiffs should be looking at is that, when the fish bypass at Intake works for slow moving fish, it could be used everywhere, with the size of each bypass relative to the size of the dam in question. “It would be an effective method for the survival of the fish at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers. It would be a shining example to the rest of the nation as a way to solve endangered species issues without destroying communities,” he said.

Buses will be headed to Great Falls on April 19th, with food and beverages provided. Contact Richland Economic Development at 406-482-4679 to reserve your seat.

 

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