Oregon Supreme Court tackles environmental litigation

Taking care of the environment is a top priority for many people in Oregon and across the nation. A recent ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court enforces the need of humans to care for the delicate ecosystem in the state.

The case had to do with a stream that is so small, it is unnamed. The Supreme Court ruled that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had to put the needs of the fish above the rights of the dam owners. It concluded that the wildlife department had misinterpreted rules about fish migration through the dams.

The private dams allowed fish to travel over the top of the dams when the water level is high enough, which the wildlife division said was sufficient. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the state laws mean that fish must be able to have access through the dams constantly. As it was interpreted by the wildlife department, the fish would have only had passage when the water was from 5 to 95 percent of the capacity.

One of the main issues at hand with this case is how to provide that access for fish. Some smaller dams have outlet pipes, but advocates for the salmon claim those aren't sufficient. They say the pipes can get clogged and might be too small in some cases. They say the fish need to be able to move over the dams.

This case highlights the importance of properly interpreted laws by everyone who is involved in environmental litigation. Knowing the laws and the premise behind them might make it easier for advocates to protect the ecosystem that is so delicately balanced.

Source: The Oregonian, "Court delivers victory for Oregon salmon advocates" No author given, May. 15, 2014

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