Early Victory in McKenzie River hatcheries case

Lawsuit proceeds to discovery after defeating motion to dismiss

last updated June 8, 2023 

Hatcheries early victory - motion to dismiss

The McKenzie River basin provides clean drinking water for over 200,000 Oregonians, and spawning and rearing grounds for native fish and other important aquatic species. Judge Rees’s ruling means our case protecting the McKenzie river is proceeding to trial! Photo by Rick Obst. CC BY 2.0.

Victory! Crag attorney Mike Sargetakis and co-counsel Karl G. Anuta secured an early victory in our lawsuit to protect native fish from pollution from two McKenzie River hatcheries, on behalf of our clients The Conservation Angler, NEDC, and Willamette Riverkeeper. The Department of Environmental Quality granted unlawful permits for these hatcheries, so we took them to court! After oral argument on May 22, 2023, Judge David Rees denied the agency’s motion to dismiss the case, and ruled that our lawsuit can proceed.

“The Department of Environmental Quality can’t issue permits that violate the Clean Water Act, and then try to evade judicial review. I’m pleased the judge denied DEQ’s motion to dismiss, and I’m grateful to our clients for fighting to protect these native fish.”

– Mike Sargetakis, Crag Associate Attorney

What’s at stake

The McKenzie river basin provides clean drinking water for over 200,000 Oregonians. It is also home to wild fish and other culturally and ecologically significant aquatic species that have relied on the McKenzie to spawn for thousands of years.

Fish need cold water to survive. Yet, these two fish hatcheries have for years been polluting the McKenzie River – by discharging water that’s too warm back into the river.

Despite knowing this, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued discharge permits that were no different than those previously issued (and violated) by the same hatcheries – effectively letting these facilities continue business as usual for years into the future.

With Judge Rees’s ruling, we are one step closer to invalidating the hatcheries’ permits and stopping their pollution. 

Our Clients

We are proud to represent our clients in this case:

  • The Conservation Angler is an advocacy and watchdog organization that fights for the protection of wild Pacific anadromous fish populations throughout the Northwest, all the way to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.  
  • The Northwest Environmental Defense Center is a nonprofit working to protect the environment and natural resources of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Willamette Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Willamette River and believe that a river with good water quality and abundant natural habitat, safe for fishing and swimming is a basic public right.

In the next few months, both parties will begin the discovery process. As the case progresses towards trial, stay tuned for updates.


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