A toxic algae bloom this year in Detroit Lake was a costly but temporary setback; yet an environmental activist lawsuit might be worse. Northwest Environmental Defense Center et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al is sort of the typical fish vs dam case, but this time it’s not farmers in the Klamath Basin that might go high and dry. It’s the company town that is our state capital.
The City of Salem has filed a motion to become an intervenor in this case, because if the named defendant loses, and Detroit Lake is drained, 190,000 water customers will see their source of running water ordered to flow into the Willamette. This is a good reminder that dams do more than just generate electricity. They also prevent flooding and quench the thirst of urban populations whom cannot always balance radical natural salmon policy with daily morning showers, let alone green lawns.
The Corps is currently working on an environmental impact statement for the Detroit Dam. I can imagine there are some environmentalists downstream that are quietly hoping the Northwest Environmental Defense Center loses this one.
Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.