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Court: Leavenworth Federal Fish Hatchery violating Clean Water laws Bureau of Reclamation needs to invest in hatchery upgrades, delayed 38 years

Jan 10, 2017


Dan Von Seggern, Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP),  206.829-8299

Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy,  425-788-1167

Brian Knutsen, Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC,  503-841-6515

Today, the federal court ruled that the federal Leavenworth Fish Hatchery is discharging pollutants into Icicle Creek without a Clean Water Act permit.  The hatchery has been doing so since 1979.

“The Leavenworth Hatchery is a dilapidated and old, with decades of deferred maintenance that needs serious upgrades,” said Dan Von Seggern. “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns and funds the Hatchery has failed to adequately fund a state-of-the-art hatchery, let alone even basic maintenance.”

The Leavenworth Hatchery generates pollutants from 1.2 million fish in a confined space that are released into Icicle Creek.  Pollutants include disease-control chemicals, pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics, chemicals used for disinfection and other fish culture purposes, residual chemical reagents, salts, and chlorinated water.  This phosphorus loading also contributes to violations of water quality standards in the Wenatchee River.

Since 1979, the Hatchery has been operating without a valid pollution permit.  To comply with the judge’s ruling, the hatchery will need an updated pollution permit, called an “NPDES” permit, required by the federal Clean Water Act.  Obtaining this permit will force the federal hatchery to do its long-delayed upgrades, including wastewater treatment technology to protect Icicle Creek.

“This decision should be a wake-up call to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,” 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. The Bureau needs to invest in substantial improvements, including wastewater treatment and fish ponds.”

The Leavenworth Hatchery is part of a controversial process conveyed by the Washington Department of Ecology and known as the Icicle Work Group. The Hatchery improvements are on the list of goals.   The IWG has proposed using needed improvements to the Hatchery for getting more water for the City of Leavenworth.  “The Court ruling makes clear that Hatchery improvements are a matter of law, not a bargaining chip for IWG controversial proposals to dam and drain water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness,” noted Von Seggern.

The Leavenworth National Hatchery was constructed between 1939 and 1941 near Leavenworth, Washington, to try and mitigate for massive salmon losses from building Grand Coulee Dam.  The Hatchery is located on the banks of Icicle Creek, approximately three miles from the river’s confluence with the Wenatchee River.

Wild Fish Conservancy and CELP are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR.


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