Court Blocks Federal Dam Project That Would Jeopardize The Continued Existence Of The Pallid Sturgeon

Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana enjoined construction of a $59 million federal dam project that would block upstream and downstream passage of the highly imperiled pallid sturgeon.  Since being listed as an endangered species in 1990, the pallid sturgeon—an iconic freshwater fish species that has inhabited North America for approximately 78 million years—has seen its wild population decimated due to two dams operated by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  After neglecting the species for 25 years from the time of its listing as endangered, those agencies decided in 2015 to replace one of the existing dams by constructing an even larger concrete dam across the Lower Yellowstone River accompanied by a bypass channel to purportedly allow some sturgeon to pass upstream and downstream—despite the best available evidence demonstrating that few fish, if any, will actually use the proposed bypass channel.  As a result, the court today found that the agencies’ proposed dam project violates the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act.  Especially in light of the urgent situation in which only 100 adult sturgeon remain before this species goes extinct, the court found that construction of the new dam would irreparably harm this species by failing to give it a reasonable chance at ultimate survival and recovery.  Our firm represents Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council in this case.  The court’s ruling can be found here.