$33.2 Million Pollution Settlement Proposed for Portland Harbor, Oregon to Benefit Fish and Communities
NOV. 6, 2023 — On November 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a proposed settlement valued at approximately $33.2 million to compensate for natural resource injuries that resulted from hazardous substance releases and oil discharges into the Willamette River and Portland Harbor in Oregon. The settlement would resolve the liability of more than 20 potentially responsible parties for damages to natural resources, loss of recreational services and tribal uses, as well as the cost of assessing those injuries.
Since the 1900s, industries and public entities in the highly industrialized area have released dozens of harmful contaminants into Portland Harbor, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, pesticides, and other hazardous substances. These contaminants have accumulated to high levels in sediments, salmon, lamprey, and other wildlife. Health advisories restricting fish consumption are in effect.
In the proposed settlement, the responsible parties will be required to pay for or purchase credits from existing restoration bank projects to restore salmon — a critical component of Pacific Northwest ecosystems and vital to tribal subsistence and culture — and other wildlife in the area. Also, more than $600,000 will be dedicated to restoring the public's recreational use of the river, and restoring and monitoring culturally significant plants and animals.
The Portland Harbor Trustee Council members are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of the Interior; the State of Oregon; the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon; the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon; and the Nez Perce Tribe.
The settlement is subject to a 45-day public comment period and final court approval.
Additional information is available from NOAA and on the Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Council website.