Mission & Accomplishments

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy is a statewide organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore Washington’s waters through education, policy reform, agency advocacy, and public interest litigation.

CELP’s accomplishments are many since its founding by University of Washington Law School Professor Ralph W. Johnson. Professor Johnson recognized that water belongs to all of us, and that the Public Trust Doctrine should be used to protect this precious resource for humans, wildlife, and life itself. True to Professor Johnson’s vision, CELP has protected many of Washington’s rivers and aquifers.

One recent victory:  Restoring the water to Spokane Falls, the centerpiece of downtown Spokane.

On the left: the Falls in 2009 “before CELP”.                                                                      On the right:  the infinitely better “after” in 2011.  John Osborn Photos.

spokane river with waterspokane river without

Here are some other notable CELP achievements:

  • Established “standing” for citizen challenges to state water right decisions (1995)
  • Won recognition of interrelationship between ground and surface waters (1996)
  • Shut down issuance of new groundwater rights in Yakima River Basin (1998)
  • Defeated the water-squandering gold mine on Buckhorn Mountain (2000)
  • Convinced Ecology to meter all water rights in critical salmon watersheds (2001)
  • Established mitigation standards for new water rights (2003)
  • Prevented local initiative from vetoing state water resource protections (2006)
  • Protected Hines Marsh trumpeter swan habitat from developer’s wells (2007)
  • Helped win recognition of counties’ responsibilities to protect instream flows and existing water rights in issuing building permits (2011)
  • Defeated legislation that would have allowed new wells to suck dry environmental flows in rivers throughout Western Washington (2012)
  • Required Spokane County’s new waste water treatment plant to limit new discharges of PCBs into the Spokane River (2013)
  • Saved Similkameen Falls from being dewatered for a new hydroelectric project (2013)
  • Appealed a large, new unmitigated water right from the Columbia River (2014)
  • Organized an international alliance to support modernizing the Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada – including a call for restoring salmon to the Upper Columbia basin and including ecosystem functions as a goal of the Treaty (2014)
  • Worked with allies to call for the removal of the Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River near Oroville (2015)

Yet, with all the victories we have celebrated, more work remains to meet the challenges of climate change and increased population. CELP seeks to reform our antiquated water laws and policies so that our future water use is truly sustainable for people and for the environment.

CELP is a 501(c)3 non profit organization.