Astoria, OR– In 2007, after four years of litigation, NELC attorneys negotiated a consent decree with seafood processing giant Pacific Seafood. Not only has the settlement brought an end to years of Clean Water Act violations at the company’s seafood and surimi processing plants on the Skipanon River (home to several species of endangered Pacific salmon), but penalties paid by Pacific Seafood in that settlement continue to drive the improvement of environ- mental conditions in and around this Columbia River estuary. Under the terms of the consent decree, the Skipanon River Watershed Council, a local conservation organization, is receiving payments each year from Pacific Seafood to help remediate salmon habitats.
The Skipanon River drains into the Columbia near its mouth. To date, the Skipanon Council has used funding from the NELC settlement exclusively on the Skipanon itself: making structural improvements to upstream culverts to allow access to historic spawning grounds, undertaking stream channel excavations and riparian plantings to improve habitat quality, and installing water quality monitoring equipment and tidal gauge to provide data for future remediation efforts.
In January 2012, the federal judge over-seeing the lawsuit, Ancer L. Haggerty of the United States District Court for Oregon, approved a request by the parties to expand the scope of the consent decree, thereby allowing the Council to do conservation work in nearby rivers as well. As a result, the Council is now partnering with local municipalities to plan a series of fish passage improvements to neighboring Alder Creek, and has prepared a digitized map of historic drainages in that river to better prioritize these activities.
Additional restoration projects in the upper reaches of the Skipanon are also under development.