May 21, 2021
Puyallup Tribe seeks court order to stop Electron Hydro from opening fish-killing dam’s water intake
‘Everything they did last summer makes it worse,’ Tribal Council says
TACOMA—The Puyallup Tribe on Thursday asked a federal court judge in its case against Electron Hydro LLC to issue an order blocking the company from opening a water intake as it stumbles through attempts to get the dam operational.
The Puyallup River is home to Chinook salmon, which are important to Tribal and non-Tribal fishers alike and a critical food source of endangered Southern Resident orcas. The river is also home to steelhead and bull trout. All three species are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The century-old dam has long been a killer of salmon and has never complied with the Endangered Species Act.
In July 2020, the company began the first phase of construction to improve efficiencies at the dam under a series of local, state, and federal permits. Within the first two weeks of the multi-week project, the company had violated every one of its permits. The company placed thousands of square yards of artificial turf into the Puyallup River. The action released crumb rubber and turf mats for miles downstream. Within the last few weeks, the continued river surveys conducted by Tribal biologists have found large turf mats, one measuring 32 square feet, are still strewn along the entire river downstream of the dam. The same month it dropped artificial turf into the water, the company conducted maintenance of the dam’s forebay. That action killed thousands of fish. The Tribe filed suit in December under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
Since then, the company has tried to salvage the failing, century-old dam. It illegally drove a rock structure and steel sheet pile into the riverbed to try to stabilize the failing dam, which remains in place today and is called a threat to both upstream and downstream migrating species by federal agencies. It still hasn’t secured permits for the work for the fish-killing rock structure.
Opening the intake would let Electron Hydro generate a small amount of power. In its request for a preliminary injunction, however, the Tribe says that opening the intake would also suck in protected fish, injuring and killing them in the process. After the project prohibited most threatened Chinook from reaching their spawning habitat upstream of the facility, the Tribe’s biologists expect far less outmigrating Chinook during this year’s juvenile migration period, which is already underway. Opening the intake now would kill what limited fish are migrating past the facility. Further, by opening the intake, the project would take water from the river, lowering river levels, which will dewater existing steelhead redds already in the river, killing tens of thousands of fertilized steelhead eggs and juvenile fish. The Tribe says it also would threaten Chinook salmon which will begin to return to spawn in the near future.
“Everything they did last summer makes it worse,” said the Puyallup Tribal Council, the Tribe’s elected governing body. “The intake sucks in fish and kills them. Their illegal activity last year reduced the already struggling populations. The fish population simply cannot absorb any further losses without significant risk of just disappearing altogether. We have no trust in the company to protect fish.”
About the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
The Puyallup People have lived along the shores of what is now called Puget Sound since time immemorial. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 members and one of the largest employers in Pierce County. It serves its people and neighbors with generosity and is committed to building a sustainable way of life for future generations. Learn more about the Puyallup Tribe.
About the Puyallup Tribal Council
The Puyallup Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The council consists of Chairman Bill Sterud, Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller, David Z. Bean, Annette Bryan, James Rideout, Anna Bean and Monica Miller.
Michael Thompson, Communications Director, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 382-6200; [email protected]