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Judge upholds no-spray zones near rivers

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Rejecting the hardship claims of farmers and pesticide manufacturers, a federal judge Tuesday ordered no-spray zones to remain in effect around thousands of miles of salmon streams in Washington, Oregon and California.

Seattle-based U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in January barred federal regulators from permitting the use of 38 commonly used pesticides along all rivers and streams inhabited by threatened or endangered salmon.

Coughenour's decision Tuesday means the no-spray order will remain in effect while farm groups and pesticide makers appeal the original ruling from a lawsuit brought by environmental advocates and fishing groups.

The order prohibits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from permitting aerial spraying within 100 yards and ground spraying within 20 yards of any stream designated as important to salmon or steelhead stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The judge also ordered the EPA to develop point-of-sale warnings to retail consumers that specific lawn and garden chemicals "may harm salmon or steelhead" and that use in urban areas can pollute salmon streams.

The restricted products include insect sprays and dusts containing the widely used active ingredients carbaryl, diazinon and malathion, as well as the weed-killer 2, 4-D used in many lawn care products.

Northwest farmers and fruit growers said they expect the order to result in expensive crop losses because of uncontrolled weeds and insects.

"We had hoped to convince the judge that the potential harm to salmon by the use of these pesticides was outweighed by the actual harm to farmers who were denied the opportunity to use these plant-protection chemicals," said Dean Boyer, a spokesman for the Washington Farm Bureau.

Salmon advocates said the order will keep pesticides toxic to fish out of streams yet will leave farmers with alternatives for protecting crops. Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented conservationists, said pesticide-makers and farm groups have exaggerated the costs of no-spray zones.

Coughenour, in his order Tuesday, said the potential economic consequences for farmers and manufacturers were "not relevant" to the question of whether his order against the EPA was justified.

He also said industry arguments failed to overcome the Endangered Species Act's presumption that "the balance of hardships always tips sharply in favor of endangered and threatened species."

Coughenour emphasized the role of EPA officials in the lawsuit -- that they failed to consult with federal fish and wildlife agencies, as required by the Endangered Species Act, when writing rules for pesticide use near rivers and streams.

"Indeed," the judge said, "if EPA had expended as much effort in compliance with the ESA as it has expended in resisting this action, the lawsuit might have been unnecessary."

Joe Rojas-Burke: 503-412-7073, joerojas@news.oregonian.com






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