In response to a lawsuit filed by NWEA in June 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on May 7, 2014 issued a biological opinion (“BiOp”) finding Idaho toxic standards pose jeopardy to salmon and other threatened and endangered species.
The standards in question were first submitted by Idaho in 1994 and approved by EPA in 1996. As far back as 2002, NMFS and EPA had concluded that some of the toxics standards were inadequate but the agencies did nothing and NMFS never completed its review of the Idaho standards. Not surprisingly, NMFS May 7 BiOp found the following aspects of Idaho’s toxic standards pose “jeopardy” to salmon and steelhead:
- chronic criterion for arsenic
- chronic criterion for cyanide
- chronic criterion for mercury
- chronic criterion for selenium
- acute and chronic criteria for copper
- hardness floor for hardness-dependent metals criteria
NMFS has now issued various mandatory Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPA) to EPA to fix the problems, ranging in time to complete from three to seven years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has still not completed its BiOp, which will address the effects of 23 toxics on resident species, such as bull trout, Kootenai River white sturgeon, and snails.