Federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Northwest have been spilling oil directly into the waterways on which they sit, in amounts ranging from a trickle to, in one case, 1,000 gallons. Oregon and Washington state authorities have been trying to get a handle on the problem, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is stonewalling. Arguing that it’s a matter of national security, Corps officials refuse to disclose information about what goes on within federal dams and claim they have no obligation to report spills from the dams, which use tens of thousands of gallons of heavy oil to operate turbines, pumps, and other machinery. As a federal agency, the Corps is exempt from fines that could have amounted to thousands of dollars. “There’s no question, had this been a private industry, there would have been significant financial penalties issued for these spills, and the penalties would be continuing,” said Ron Holcomb of the Washington Department of Ecology.