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Salmon and the Clean Water Act: An Unfinished Agenda

February 2021

Citation: 51 ELR 10109

Issue: 2

Author: Michael C. Blumm and Michael Benjamin Smith

Salmon require cool temperatures to migrate and reproduce. The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires states to develop and implement water quality standards sufficient to produce fishable waters. Nearly a half-century after its 1972 enactment, the modern federal statute’s goal of fishable waters has yet to be achieved in the case of salmon streams. Recent cases that attempt to enforce the long-delayed temperature total maximum daily load for the Columbia and Snake Rivers through §401 certifications offer some hope that the CWA can become a vehicle for cooling the river temperatures, especially in the Columbia Basin, and promoting salmon recovery. But that will require overcoming determined opposition to changes to the status quo.

Michael C. Blumm is Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School. Michael Benjamin Smith is a 2021 J.D. candidate at Lewis & Clark Law School.

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