Monthly Archives: June 2015


June Edition of Washington Water Watch is Out!

The lower Columbia River, below Bonneville Dam - Photo by John Roskelley

The lower Columbia River, below Bonneville Dam – Photo by John Roskelley

Our June edition of Washington Water Watch is now available. Check it out here!

This month, we profile our new board member, Brady Johnson, discuss our intervention into a law suit filed that challenges the Dungeness Instream Flow Rule, update our work on the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, highlight a petition to restore Moxlie Creek and more.


Report Released on Columbia River Governance through Prism of Tribes and First Nations

The University Consortium on Columbia River Governance has released its report: A Sacred Responsibility – Governing the Use of Water and Related Resources in the International

Columbia Basin through the Prism of Tribes and First Nations. (click to download, 9.20MB)

The report is based on the 4th transboundary symposium held at in Polson, Montana, in October 2012 and convened by the University Consortium and involving tribal and First Nation leaders along with about 150 other people and organizations including CELP.

The following key points are taken from the report’s Executive Summary:

The role of tribes and First Nations in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements like the CRT is a function of both domestic and international law, as well as a body of indigenous law that helps define how tribes and First Nations participate.

International law in general is largely silent as to the capacity of non-state actors, including tribes and First Nations, to participate in the process of negotiating international treaties. In practice, and in the context of the international Columbia Basin, international law provides sufficient flexibility to both Canada and the U.S. to involve tribes and First Nations in the process of negotiating and implementing agreements for the conservation and management of transboundary water and related resources.

Both Canada and the United States have previously invited tribes and First Nations to participate as members of various international negotiation teams and to play roles in successfully implementing international agreements.

In the United States, the President has exclusive authority to appoint a team to negotiate an international treaty, and nothing prohibits the President from including tribal representatives on an international negotiating team. The U.S. Senate also has the power to appoint “observers” to an international treaty negotiation.

In Canada, the federal government has the discretion to include First Nations in an international negotiating team as well as an affirmative legal duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations interests in various circumstances. Under certain circumstances the federal government or federal Crown may also be compelled to consult with, accommodate, and in some cases seek “consent” from First Nations with respect to positions to be taken in international negotiations.

The international Pacific Salmon Commission between Canada and the United States is a good example of how tribes and First Nations participated in the negotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST), and now participate in the implementation of that agreement through the Pacific Salmon Commission. The Nordic Saami Convention, Inuit Circumpolar Council, and Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and Agreement also demonstrate an international trend to include indigenous peoples in both negotiating and implementing governance arrangements for the use of transboundary land, water, and related resources.

There are a number of very compelling policy and pragmatic reasons to include

tribes and First Nations in negotiating and implementing future governance for the international Columbia Basin.

To advance their interests and aspirations with respect to the CRT, the Columbia Basin tribes and First Nations may want to pursue one or more of the following options:

Encourage the existing Entities to adjust the CRT by integrating ecosystem-based function as an objective of the CRT equal to the current purposes of flood risk management and hydropower development, either by amending the existing treaty or creating a separate new agreement;

Promote and support a model of “shared governance” of the international Columbia Basin led by sovereign entities, including tribes and First Nations; and

Encourage the Entities to establish and maintain an “advisory committee” on ecosystem function to provide ongoing input and advice to the Permanent Engineering Board, a bilateral group responsible for operational implementation of the CRT.


Meet Brady Johnson – New CELP Board Member

Brady Johnson is the son of CELP founder Ralph W. Johnson and has been a life-long supporter of a rational water policy.  Professionally Brady is retired from a long career litigating a wide variety of cases including criminal defense, civil rights, mental health and civil commitment, torts, class actions and for the last 15 years of his career, antitrust and consumer protection.  Brady has appeared before trial and appellate courts in several states, and in federal trial  and appellate courts in the 2nd, 3rd and 9th Circuits and in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Brady holds a B.A. from the University of Washington and a J.D. from the University of Puget Sound School of Law.  He also holds a Certificate in International Law from the McGeorge School of Law.  He is a member of the Washington State Bar.

How did you first become aware of/involved with CELP?

My father and Rachael [Paschal Osborn] founded CELP and I have been aware of it and its mission from its earliest days.

What’s your first memory of being aware of water conservation, or conservation in general?

My father taught water law among other things at the University of Washington School of Law. Even before that he was a conscientious conservationist and he instilled those values in his children. I do not recall a time when I was not aware of the value of water conservation, and of conserving and protecting our natural resources.

What do you find most challenging about protecting water in Washington?

The regressive allocation system that on the one hand creates reasonable sounding rules, then defeats them by creating massive exemptions. A further challenge is to get the State to recognize this incredibly obvious inconsistency and to persuade the agencies and legislature to actually fix it.

If you could change one thing about CELP, what would it be?

More resources to pursue its mission.

What do you wish other people knew about CELP or water conservation generally?

A common belief appears to be that water is an infinitely renewable resource and thus, we don’t need to worry about it. I wish that people understood that this is a fallacy, and a very dangerous one because it leads to tremendous overuse and misallocation of the resource. Continuing this process over the long term will create numerous economic, social and political disruptions, all of which can be avoided if we act appropriately now.

What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about water conservation?

That water conservation and effective management of this vital but limited resource is one of the most pressing issues of our day and will become more urgent in the coming years. I believe that the more that we can do now, the less pain our descendants will have to suffer as a result.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming involved with CELP?

I tell people that they should be thinking about becoming involved with CELP and that an easy way is to send a check, even a small one, each year.

If you weren’t volunteering on the CELP board, what would you be doing instead?

The same things I’m doing now, learning a new language, studying computer programming, going for walks and enjoying a pleasant retirement.

As a long-term supporter, what sorts of trends do you see in WA water conservation?

I don’t mean to be snarky, but I see a trend toward dryness. We are misallocating and overusing our water resource. While water must serve fish, farmers and people, the current system does not adequately address the limitations on the resource nor appropriately prioritize the need. There is no indication that state agencies or the legislature are taking the matter up in any serious way. In fact, the current system appears to be entrenched. Because of this, the work of CELP is particularly important in educating state officials as well as the people of Washington about the realities of water scarcity and our terrible system of managing it.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CELP?

I study new and interesting things, visit with friends and family and generally enjoy life.


Religious leaders call on USA and Canada to modernize the Columbia River Treaty based on Ethical Principles

“One River, Ethics matter”:  One week before release of Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical, momentum builds for stewardship, justice through Treaty changes

Today 16 religious leaders sent a second request to President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to begin negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty based on ethical principles of stewardship and justice.   The religious leaders’ letter comes one week in advance of the release of Pope Francis’s Encyclical on climate change and the deteriorating global environment, providing a North American example of a river severely damaged by past decisions and unfolding climate change.  In 2014 the first request letter was sent by different religious leaders and also indigenous leaders representing 15 Columbia Basin tribes in the United States and 17 First Nations in Canada.

“The Columbia River is the historic lifeblood of the tribes who have lived in its watershed from time immemorial.  And rivers are the lifeblood of the planet.  As a matter of justice, and as a matter of survival, I join with others across the watershed in urging the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty,” said The Rev. Jessica Crist, Bishop of the Montana Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Kettle Falls. Kettle Falls was an incredibly rich salmon fishing spot and gathering place for the Tribes since time immemorial, and is flooded by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee dam. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)

Kettle Falls. Kettle Falls was an incredibly rich salmon fishing spot and gathering place for the Tribes since time immemorial, and is flooded by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee dam. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)

Religious and indigenous leaders are asking both nations to establish an international model of resolving transboundary water conflicts by applying the Declaration on Ethics and Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.  The Declaration sets forth eight principles for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty that include respecting indigenous rights, protecting and restoring healthy ecosystems with abundant fish and wildlife populations, and providing fish passage to all historical locations.

In May, the U.S. State Department informed Congressional leaders that negotiating the Treaty was a national priority, and that the U.S. would seek to add Ecosystem Function as one of the primary purposes of the Treaty.  The State Department decision is based on Regional Recommendations issued in December 2013 by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.  All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.  Religious leaders have joined in support of Tribes and First Nations.  A foundation for this growing support by the faith community is the Columbia River Pastoral Letter released in 2001 by the twelve Roman Catholic bishops of the international watershed, and based on region-wide listening sessions.

“The Columbia Basin tribes welcome and appreciate the religious leaders’ support for the two countries to modernize the Columbia River Treaty on a foundation of social and environmental justice to achieve shared goals,” said Leotis McCormack a Chaplain and member of the Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee.  “The Regional Recommendation is a historic document that provides a vision for a modernized Treaty that reflects today’s values of ecosystem-based function and restored fish passage.”

With glaciers melting in the headwaters and water temperatures rising in the lower Columbia River, climate change is already threatening the river and fisheries that depend on the river.  Adding ecosystem function as a third treaty purpose co-equal with hydropower and flood risk management would encourage both Canada and the United States to co-manage the Columbia River as a single river, restore salmon to areas now blocked by dams, and reconnect the river with floodplains.

“Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.” -- U.S. State Department

“Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.” — U.S. State Department

Additional quotes from religious, indigenous leaders:

D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes’ Executive Director.  “We are salmon people.  Salmon meant nearly everything to our people, provided by the Creator.  The U.S. government with Canada’s approval built Grand Coulee dam.  When the gates closed and the waters rose, 10,000 people gathered at Kettle Falls for the Ceremony of Tears.  They built more dams and flooded more valleys. They took the river and the salmon from us.  Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty holds the promise of righting this historic wrong by bringing home the salmon and managing the river as a river rather than as a machine.  While this is vital to the Tribes and First Nations – it is important to all people in the Columbia Basin in both countries. In this time of climate change, we must protect and restore the river.”

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  “Noted the The ELCA social statement, ‘Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice,’ describes humanity’s part in creation this way: ‘According to Genesis 2:15, our role within creation is to serve and keep God’s garden, the earth.’ This earth, all of creation and that beautiful part of it known as the Columbia River are a gift entrusted to us by God. And this gift is entrusted not just to particular countries or a particular generation, but to all countries and to all of humanity. When we seek to make faithful decisions about the tending of the Columbia River or any natural resource, we must remember that it is not, nor can it ever be, just about us or just about now.”

The Rev. Paul Benz, co-director of Faith Action Network.  “As a statewide interfaith advocacy organization partnering for the Common Good of all God’s creatures, the Faith Action Network stands with Columbia River Basin tribes and First Nations in their struggle for the health of the river, their people and the ecosystem.  Their life, history, and spirit are tied to the river.  We look forward to treaty negotiations between the US and Canada that result in the protection and wise use of this good gift of God for all the people of the basin.”  (FAN is formerly Washington Council of Churches and the Lutheran Public Policy Office.)


State Department to include Ecosystem Function in Columbia River Treaty

United States moves closer to negotiating with Canada to modernize international River Treaty

Hanford Reach on the Columbia river

Hanford Reach on the Columbia River

Today Northwest conservation groups and the fishing community praised the U.S. State Department for including ecosystem function in the nation’s negotiation position as it prepares to negotiate the Columbia River Treaty with Canada.   The State Department’s decision came in a May 20 letter received on May 28 by members of the Northwest Congressional delegation, and is based on Regional Recommendations issued in December 2013 by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The State Department letter to the Northwest Congressional delegation states, “Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position.  We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.”

In the face of mounting regional concern about the need for the United States to move forward and negotiate with Canada, the State Department letter emphasizes that modernizing the river treaty is a priority for the nation:  “The Administration recognizes the significant economic and cultural role the Columbia River plays in the lives of your constituents in the Pacific Northwest, including numerous communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.  We assure you that the future of the Treaty is a priority, and internal deliberations are gaining momentum.”   The State Dept and the Council of Environmental Quality briefed the regional’s Senate staff on February 27 and May 5, and the House staff on May 27.

With glaciers melting in the headwaters and water temperatures rising in the lower Columbia River, climate change is already threatening the river and fisheries that depend on the river.  Adding ecosystem function as a third treaty purpose co-equal with hydropower and flood risk management would encourage both Canada and the United States to co-manage the Columbia River as a single river, restore salmon to areas now blocked by dams, and reconnect the river with floodplains.

“There is solid, broad-based support among Northwest states, Tribes, businesses and citizens to promptly begin formal talks with Canada to modernize the half-century-old Columbia River Treaty for tomorrow’s Northwest,” said Pat Ford, representing  Save Our wild Salmon.  “Conservationists and fishermen applaud the State Department for taking this needed step.”

“WaterWatch of Oregon commends the Obama Administration for taking the initial steps needed to get the region to the goals of abundant salmon runs, healthy river ecosystems and economic vitality for the many communities that depend on the Columbia River,” said John DeVoe, WaterWatch of Oregon’s Executive Director.

The basis for the State Department’s decision is “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024,” issued in December 2013.That recommendation includes restoring the ecosystem as a primary purpose of an updated treaty, co-equal to hydropower and flood control — a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management.  “The Regional Recommendation gives the Obama Administration a unique opportunity to improve the health of an iconic international river.  The northwest Congressional Delegation, and in particular, Senators Murray and Wyden, are to be commended for recognizing the need to seize the moment,” said Greg Haller, Conservation Director for the Pacific Rivers Council.

“Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.” -- U.S. State Department

“Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.” — U.S. State Department

All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.  Religious leaders have joined in support of Tribes and First Nations, based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter.

“Canada and the United States together have stewardship and justice responsibilities to manage the river as a single ecologic system,” said John Osborn, a Spokane physician and a coordinator of the Ethics & Treaty Project. “In a time of climate change the international effort to modernize the Columbia River Treaty can by summarized with just four words:  ‘One River, ethics matter.’”

The Columbia River Treaty went into effect in 1964.  In 2024 flood-risk responsibility, now shared by Canada and the U.S., shifts to the United States.  Canada would only provide assistance when the U.S. requests help.  Such a change will have major impacts in the U.S. on reservoir levels, hydropower production, water supply, irrigation, and salmon.  As written, the recommendation includes a public process to explore innovative ways to manage river flows and flood risk.

Center for Environmental Law & Policy  |  WaterWatch of Oregon

Pacific Rivers Council  |  Save Our wild Salmon  |  Sierra Club  |  Columbia Institute for Water Policy

Links –

 


May Edition of Washington Water Watch is Here!

Check out our May edition of Washington Water Watch – we discuss the EPA’s new Clean Water Rule, a report released in January 2015 by Earth Economics about Outdoor Recreation in WA, and give updates on litigation and CELP in the News.

Click here to view the newsletter.

Thanks to everyone who came the Celebrate Water on May 21!  - Photo by Jon Anscher Photography

Thanks to everyone who attended, sponsored and volunteered for Celebrate Water on May 21! – Photo by Jon Anscher Photography