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Lawsuit demands halt to river diversions

Environmentalists have filed action seeking an injunction to stop the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) from ‘illegally’ diverting the waters of the Columbia river for irrigation. They argue the water should be used to boost river flows to help threatened and endangered salmon. Increased flow would cool water to a more fish-friendly temperature as well as make it easier for salmon to go up and down the river. It was unclear how many hectares of land would be affected if the injunction request is successful.

Environmentalists claim that six bureau projects on the Snake river illegally diverted enough water to irrigate at least 14,164.5ha of land, based on a 1994 interior department inspector general’s report. Environmentalists say that the preliminary injunction attempt could send more water down the river, but it would not be needed if the four Snake river dams in southeastern Wash-ington state are breached.