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Revelstoke B.C. hosts 4th annual One River – Ethics Matter conference

“The River is sacred.  People will put aside their differences when it comes to the River and bringing back the salmon.”
– the late Virgil Seymour (1958 – 2016) Arrow Lakes (Sinixt) Facilitator for The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

The May 13 “One River – Ethics Matter” conference opened with a welcome and call from Revelstoke’s Mayor, Mark McKee, for all people to work together on behalf of the Columbia River.  The day was truly remarkable for bringing together Upper Columbia River Basin’s First Nations, religious leaders, and community leaders and volunteers in respectful dialogue on the past and future of the Columbia River.

Free-flowing Columbia River, at Revelstoke B.C. – site of the 4th in the series of international conferences, “One River – Ethics Matter.” Prior conferences were held in Spokane, Portland, and Boise. In 2018, the fifth conference will be in Montana.

Some of the more memorable messages:

  • We do this work – returning the salmon and restoring the waters of the Upper Columbia – for our kids.
  • Indigenous people have been here from time immemorial, and we’ll continue to be here forever.
  • Churches and houses of worship are also symbols of community – and destroying or moving churches with the Treaty dams underscored the wrenching impacts on the people of the Upper Columbia.
  • Indigenous language carries meaning that is deeply important.
  • C. public schools have made major advances in environmental education.
  • All of us need more water rituals in our daily lives.
  • We all need to work together for the River and return of salmon.

First Nation and tribal leadership included Bonnie Leonard (Secwepemc), Sandra Luke (Ktunaxa), Chief Chad Eneas and Rosalie Wilson-Yazzie (Okanagan Nation Alliance), and D.R. Michel (Sinixt, Upper Columbia United Tribes), along with policy experts Bill Green (Canadian Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission) and Jay Johnson (Okanagan Nation Alliance).

Faith leadership included Anglican Archbishop John Privett, Roman Catholic Bishop John Corriveau, and Rev. Greg Powell of the Kootenay Presbytery.

Scholars and educators included Jeannette Armstrong (En’owkin Centre, Syilx scholar), Angus Graeme (President, Selkirk College), and Ariel McDowell (Principal of Aboriginal Education, School District 19).

This is the fourth in a conference series entitled “One River – Ethics Matter” that examines the moral dimensions of the dam-building era with a focus on First Nations (Canada) and Indian tribes (U.S.), and the river and life that depends on the river.

Earlier conferences explored the profound effects of dams from Grand Coulee upstream on tribes and First Nations; how protecting flood plain settlement and development in the Portland area has come at the cost of permanently flooding river valleys and native homelands upstream; and re-licensing of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon Complex of dams to provide passage for salmon now blocked from returning to the upper Snake River.  The Revelstoke conference focused on the catastrophic change that came with permanently flooding the immense river valleys of interior British Columbia as part of the Columbia River Treaty ratified in 1964.

The One River – Ethics Matter conference series is coordinated by the Ethics & Treaty Project.  The project is jointly hosted by CELP and Sierra Club.

Additional Revelstoke Links

Revelstoke Conference hosts:

North Columbia Environmental Society, Mir Centre for Peace, Selkirk College, Okanagan College Faculty Association

Revelstoke Conference sponsors:

Joan Craig, MD * Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson * Archbishop John Privett, Anglican Diocese of Kootenay * Ktunaxa Nation Council * Upper Columbia United Tribes * Laurie Arnold PhD * North Columbia Environmental Society * Sierra Club BC * Yellowstone to Yukon * Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southwestern Washington Synod * Citizens for a Clean Columbia * Columbia Institute for Water Policy * Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter * Sierra Club, Washington State Chapter * Tom Soeldner & Linda Finney * Center for Environmental Law & Policy * Rachael & John Osborn

 


Washington Water Watch: April 2017 Edition

In this issue, learn about WRIA 56 Hangman Creek in the latest post of the Watersheds to Watch blog series, learn about CELP’s upcoming participation in GiveBIG, sign up to paddle the Hanford Reach with John Roskelley, and meet our office puppies!

Read the April issue of Water Watch here.


CELP Receives $200,000 from Columbia Riverkeeper Lawsuit Settlement

by Trish Rolfe

CELP has a long history of working to protect the Columbia River Watershed, and now thanks to Columbia Riverkeeper, we can do even more work. Last week the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington entered an agreement settling a Clean Water Act case between Columbia Riverkeeper and Sandvik Special Metals, LLC.

This case began in 2015, after Sandvik reported that it discharged more ammonia and fluoride into the Columbia River than the company’s water pollution permit allowed. Under the agreement, Sandvik will update its water pollution control technology and fund several substantial projects to improve water quality in the Columbia River and its tributaries in Eastern Washington.

CELP was selected to receive funding from this settlement to work protect and restore streamflow and water quality in the mid-Columbia River basin to support endangered salmon and steelhead, other aquatic life, and recreational opportunities. The Columbia River, many of its tributaries, and their aquatic resources are negatively impacted by low or altered streamflow. Low streamflow causes or exacerbates many of the water quality problems that impact aquatic life in the Columbia River basin, such as high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen levels, and high concentrations of pollutants.

CELP’s work to protect water quantity and streamflow in the mid-Columbia basin will consist of:

2. CELP’s Mid-Columbia Basin Instream Flows Initiative

Water quantity and water quality are closely connected, especially with respect to water temperature. Setting enforceable minimum instream flow requirements in tributaries of the Columbia River will help protect water quality in these tributaries and ensure that endangered Columbia River salmon and steelhead have adequate spawning and rearing habitat. Increasing instream flow in Columbia River tributaries could also enhance thermal refugia in the mainstream Columbia River at the mouth of these tributaries, which are used by migrating adult salmon and steelhead.

The State of Washington is obligated, under statutory programs, the public trust doctrine, and U.S.-Tribal treaties, to protect and sustainably manage river flows. Since 1969, state law has explicitly directed state agencies to adopt rules to protect instream flows for public benefit in each watershed. Nonetheless, formal instream flow protections have been adopted for only one-third of Washington’s watershed. Many of the remaining unprotected watersheds are tributaries to the Mid-Columbia River in central Washington.

CELP’s Mid-Columbia Basin Instream Flows Initiative would examine which Columbia River tributaries in central Washington currently do not have mandated minimum instream flows. Some of the unprotected tributaries in the Mid-Columbia basin include the Wind, White Salmon, Klickitat, Palouse, Pend Oreille, and Sanpoil rivers, and Rock and Glade creeks.

2. CELP’s Ethics & Treaty Project

CELP’s Ethics & Treaty Project focuses on working with tribes and conservation organizations to advocate for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. The mission of CELP’s Ethics & Treaty Project is to modernize the Columbia River Treaty to promote the common good through stewardship and justice, while encouraging respectful dialogue and an international water ethic for the Columbia River.

Specifically, CELP seeks to support efforts to include “ecosystem-based function” as a new primary purpose of a re-negotiated Columbia River Treaty, on equal footing with the Treaty’s two current purposes: hydropower and flood risk management. As part of this effort, we would support work to restore fish passage to the Upper Columbia River, including all watersheds where salmon historically migrated, including the Spokane and Pend Oreille River basins.

CELP’s Ethics & Treaty Project will continue to focus on public outreach and education. Thus far, we have hosted Ethics & Treaty conferences all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and we hope to host several more in the coming years in Montana and in British Columbia. We will also host roundtable calls to connect tribes, conservation groups, and citizens from Canada & the U.S. who are interested in modernizing the treaty. Facilitating these outreach and organizing activities across several western states and provinces requires a significant commitment of staff time and resources. This funding would allow CELP to intensify and extend its Ethics & Treaty Project to advocate on both sides of the border for a re-negotiated Columbia River Treaty that recognizes the importance of maintaining the Columbia’s ecosystem-based function.

Read more about the case in the Tri-City Herald.


Watersheds to Watch: WRIA 56 Hangman (Latah)

by Elan Ebeling
 

Hangman or Latah Creek, originates in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Idaho, and flows across the border into Washington, where it stretches through the city of Spokane and joins with the Spokane River. WRIA 56 encompasses the section of the creek in Washington State, starting from the border with Idaho.

The Hangman Creek Watershed has a long history of agriculture. In the early part of the 20th century, thousands of acres of forest were cleared for farming. Modifications to straighten stream channels, and new irrigation channels and ditches resulted in erosion, poor water quality and increased flash flooding that continues in the present day.

Agriculture continues to be the most significant use of land in the Hangman Creek Watershed (about 65%), and a century of heavy farming and population growth has taken its toll on water quantity, quality, and fisheries. According to the Hangman Creek Water Resources Management Plan, during the summer months, the average flow is below 3 cfs. Low flows also contribute to temperature and water quality issues. Hangman Creek has been described as “one of the most degraded waterbodies in eastern Washington State,” and fails to meet Washington State water quality standards for temperature, fecal coliform, and pH. In addition, the degraded water from Hangman Creek flows into the Spokane River every year along with heavy sediment from erosion, contributing to algae blooms and other water quality issues on the Spokane.

Although the creek’s native name Latah means “fish” in Nez Perce, few remain in Hangman Creek. As a result of the region’s long history of agriculture, fish habitat has gone through dramatic changes in the last century. While Hangman Creek once had healthy populations of native redband trout, salmon, and steelhead, the alterations made to vegetation patterns and channels to accommodate farming, as well as increased sediment and temperature in the river has resulted in heavily reduced populations of trout, and near nonexistent populations of other game fish.

These problems have been exacerbated by the proliferation of domestic permit exempt wells, and the over allocation of water rights. Ecology’s Water Availability Report states that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has limited most surface water sources in Hangman Creek through Surface Water Source Limitations, and that the majority of water has already been appropriated.

An instream flow rule for WRIA 56 is crucial to the future of Hangman Creek to protect critical fish habitat and combat worsening water quality, yet none exists. The Hangman Creek Watershed Planning Unit was unable to come to a consensus on exact values for instream flow recommendations by the time their 2005 Watershed Management Plan was published, but agreed that they wanted an instream flow rule. What’s more, their plan stated that they would notify Ecology if a consensus could not be reached in the next phase of planning, and expected Ecology to complete the process and enact a rule if necessary.

Despite the completion of an instream flow study on Hangman Creek, no rule exists for WRIA 56, and information on the current status of rulemaking is sparse. Although setting instream flows will not solve Hangman Creek’s severe pollution and erosion issues, it is critical to preserve what little water remains, as population growth predictions and increased demand for water resources only point to more issues in the future. As acknowledged by the WRIA 56 planning unit, rulemaking is ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Ecology. CELP urges Ecology to act now to develop an instream flow rule to protect the Hangman Creek watershed.

If you are interested in helping to secure protections for the Hangman Creek watershed, please email CELP at contact@celp.org.


Washington Water Watch: March 2017 Edition

The March issue of Washington Water Watch features an interview with CELP’s newest board member Patrick Williams, our latest Voices for Water interview with Chairman Chief James Allan of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, CELP’s 2016 Annual Report, and a call to action to speak up for the Similkameen River in Okanogan County.

Read the March issue of Water Watch here.


Meet Patrick Williams – CELP’s Newest Board Member

Patrick is a Seattle-based attorney with a solo practice dedicated to environmental, land use law, and water law. His litigation experience includes challenges to land use decisions and water right permits. Prior to opening his practice in 2009, Patrick was staff attorney for the Center for Environmental Law and Policy for three years. During that time he worked on water policy issues including rule making and oversight. Patrick joined CELP’s Board of Directors in February.

We asked Patrick some questions about how he became passionate about protecting Washington’s waters, and his connection CELP:

What’s your first memory of being aware of water conservation?
My first memory of water conservation was growing up outside of Denver and our neighborhood was put on a water restriction program. It didn’t amount to much, but we could only use water for outside uses on certain days. As a young kid it opened my eyes to the fact that water didn’t just endlessly come out of the tap and that proper management was required if it was to be sustained.

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

I moved to Seattle in 2005 and after passing the Washington state bar exam I began to look for a job. I focused on environmental law in law school and so I was hoping to work in an environmental non-profit. I found CELP and asked if I could volunteer. They fortunately said yes and after a few months an opening for staff attorney opened up and I was offered the position, which I happily accepted.

What do you wish people knew about CELP or water conservation in general?

I would like people to know of CELP’s amazing and significant history of water resource protection in the state. CELP has a long history of scoring important victories for water resource protection in Washington and I think people should be more aware of the work CELP and its staff have done.

What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about water conservation?

My personal philosophy on water conservation is a simple one: If Washington wants to maintain its rivers, streams, and aquifers and have continued development then wise long-term management of the resource is the only way. Short-term solutions and reactionary policies will not solve the issue of maintaining Washington’s water resources.

Why are you supporting CELP as opposed to other groups working on water conservation?

I am supporting CELP because I know they are, and have been, the *leaders* in water resource management and protection in the state.

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

If anyone is interested in continuing to fish for salmon, go hiking to see the state’s beautiful rivers and waterfalls, or is concerned about where the water for future population growth will come from they should support CELP. If you want to make a difference, then they should become involved with CELP.

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

I am an attorney and a father of three daughters. When I’m not busy with my work and family I enjoy hiking, camping, and skiing.


Washington Water Watch: February Edition

Check out CELP’s February edition of Washington Water Watch! In this issue: an update on water legislation making its way through the State Legislature, an article on the Grays-Elochoman & Cowlitz watersheds, and updates on our upcoming events.

Read the February issue of Water Watch here.

 


Watersheds to Watch: the Grays-Elochoman & Cowlitz

WRIAs 25 and 26 are located in southwestern Washington, and include large portions of Lewis, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties. WRIA 25, known as the Grays-Elochoman watershed, encompasses the Grays and Elochoman Rivers, and Skamokawa, Abernathy, and Coal Creeks. WRIA 26, designated as the Cowlitz watershed, includes the upper and lower Cowlitz Rivers, Cispus, Tilton, Toutle, and Coweeman Rivers, and Mayfield Dam. Both WRIAs include many subbasins that drain into the Columbia River, however, they do not encompass the Columbia River itself.

WRIAs 25 & 26 are critical watersheds for fish – they include 24 subpopulations of salmon and steelhead listed under the ESA, more than anywhere else in the lower Columbia region. In addition, the Cowlitz basin is one of the most densely farmed areas of western Washington, and water is over-appropriated. A 2012 Department of Ecology Water Availability report for the Cowlitz watershed describes a need for further regulations to manage the basin’s water supply, including an instream flow rule as well as closing critical subbasins to future water withdrawals. The report also lists 17 river and creek basins that had been listed as “restricted” or “closed” to new uses as determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Surface Water Source Limitations.

Although the Department of Ecology acknowledges the need for regulations in WRIAs 25 and 26, the rulemaking process has not been completed. The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board (LCFRB) began work on a joint watershed plan for the Grays-Elochoman and Cowlitz basins in 1999. In 2006, a draft of the plan was unanimously adopted by Wahkiakum, Skamania, Lewis, and Cowlitz counties. The 2006 plan recognized that climate change will impact streamflows, and determined that water usage was already beyond a sustainable level. Among the plan’s recommendations were instream flow rules for 10 rivers and streams, many closures of various subbasins, and the establishment of reservations in each basin to ensure an adequate water supply for future uses.

In 2008, the LCFRB issued a Detailed Implementation Plan for WRIAS 25 and 26, and the Department of Ecology began the instream flow rulemaking process. In mid-2010, however, the rulemaking process was halted. The Department of Ecology provides two reasons for this on their website: “public concerns on the level of local participation, supply for rural water users in the Cowlitz watershed (WRIA 26), and ground well metering,” and “Gov. Gregoire’s Executive Orders 10-6 and 11-03, suspending non-critical rule development and adoption in 2011 and 2012.” In response to public concerns over the proposed water restrictions, particularly in the Cowlitz, the LCFRB released revisions for the WRIA 26 Cowlitz Watershed in 2014. While the 2006 plan recommended that all subbasins in the Cowlitz basin be closed to new groundwater withdrawals (save for reservations and domestic wells), the revised plan included the complete opening of the lower Cowlitz watershed to future withdrawals. In addition, Ecology agreed to remove the metering language from the plans to appease concerned residents.

Despite the easing of the original plan’s water use restrictions (and the fact that both of Governor Gregoire’s Executive Orders cited by Ecology are long expired), there is still no instream flow rule for WRIAs 26 and 26. Especially in critical regions where water resources have been over-appropriated for years, setting regulations like instream flow rules cannot be delayed. CELP urges the Department of Ecology to follow up on its priority of setting instream flows for WRIAs 25 & 26 to ensure adequate water for people, farms, and fish in the Grays-Elochoman & Cowlitz basins.

If you are interested in helping to secure protections for the Grays-Elochoman & Cowlitz watersheds, please email CELP at contact@celp.org.

January 2017 Edition of Washington Water Watch

Check out the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, Washington Water Watch. In this month’s issue you’ll find an article on the current water bills in the Washington State legislature, an update on CELP’s recent motion for summary judgment in the Leavenworth National fish hatchery case, an article on the Lyre-Hoko watershed, and a notice about our upcoming Spokane event, Winter Waters.

Read the January 2017 issue of Washington Water Watch here.


Watersheds to Watch: WRIA 19 Lyre-Hoko

This is the first in a series of blog posts examining unprotected watersheds in Washington State.

 

Background on Instream Flow Rules in Washington State

 

In 1998, the Washington State Legislature passed the Watershed Management Act, which provides a framework for local governments, affected Indian Tribes, citizens and stakeholders to develop plans to manage the water resources within their watershed. There are 62 watersheds or Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs, pronounced “Why-rahs”) within Washington State.

In addition to the mandatory issue of water quantity, planning groups may choose three optional components to include in their plans: making instream flow recommendations that the Department of Ecology can use to establish instream flows by rule, water quality, and fish habitat. While some of the 62 watersheds have recently adopted instream flow rules (like the Dungeness Rule which was adopted in 2013, and which CELP successfully helped to defend in court in 2016), far more have instream flow rules that are decades old or no instream flow rule at all.

Instream flow rules act as a “water right for the river,” and function the same way as any other legal water right, protecting instream resources from future water withdrawals. These rules are important for ensuring that there is enough water in rivers and streams to provide for clean water, fish habitat, recreation, and aesthetics, and are especially important given the threat of climate change and the state’s historic drought of 2015.

 

WRIA 19: The Lyre-Hoko

 

WRIA 19, designated as the Lyre-Hoko watershed, is located in Clallam County in the northwestern most part of the Olympia Peninsula, spanning from the tip of Cape Flattery to just west of the Elwha River basin. WRIA 19 encompasses the major waterways of the Lyre, Seiku, Hoko, Clallam, Pysht, East and West Twin Rivers, and Salt and Deep Creeks, which drain directly into the Strait of Juan de Fuca along with many other smaller streams.

CELP has identified WRIA 19 as a critical watershed in Washington State. The Olympic Peninsula was one of the first three regions where Governor Inslee declared drought conditions in 2015 (the Lyre-Hoko watershed was named specifically along with the Quilcene-Snow, Elwha-Dungeness, Sol Duc-Hoh, and Queets-Quinault). WRIA 19 is also an important watershed for salmon – it encompasses 27 separate salmon-bearing rivers and streams that support Chinook, chum, and coho. Although the watersheds in the Lyre-Hoko area don’t support salmon runs listed under the Endangered Species Act, the nearshore areas of WRIA 19 serve as an important migratory corridor for salmon populations (including those listed under the ESA) leaving or entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca. According to a 2015 Salmonoid Restoration Plan for WRIA 19 published by the North Olympia Peninsula Lead Entity for Salmon, however, many of the salmon populations in individual basins are considered depressed or critical, and are projected to decline.

Despite its obvious need for protection, WRIA 19 does not have an instream flow rule. Clallam County formed an official planning unit under the Watershed Management Act and initially unanimously agreed on instream flow recommendations in 2005, but disagreement over the specific numbers ultimately killed the plan in 2010 (here’s a link to the planning unit’s 2009 draft plan). While the Makah and Lower Elwha Clallam tribes supported the proposed instream flow numbers in the interest of fish habitat and adequate stream flows, the Clallam County PUD opposed them as being too high to allow for continued development and human consumption, (the timber industry also firmly opposed parts of the plan relating to riparian buffers). With the groups at an impasse, the planning process unraveled, and no plan was approved.

If a local planning unit fails to agree on a plan, the responsibility for instream flow rulemaking falls back to the Department of Ecology. Although it is unclear whether Ecology has an obligation to enact an instream flow rule in this circumstance, the fact remains that there is ample evidence that a rule needs to be put in place. In its own 2011 report on water availability in the Lyre-Hoko watershed, the Department of Ecology stated that the Department of Fish and Wildlife had recommended against issuing new water rights in sections of WRIA 19 “in order to protect fish populations.” Despite the fact that much of the requisite research and work was done in the nearly decade long local planning process, there remains no instream flow rule in place for the Lyre-Hoko watershed six years later.

Ecology has provided protection for many watersheds around the state – for example, CELP worked with the Department of Ecology to successfully defend the agency’s instream flow rule for the Dungeness River in 2016. However, CELP urges Ecology to take timely action in critical watersheds like the Lyre-Hoko in order to ensure healthy flows, abundant water for future generations, and plentiful habitat for fish.

If you are interested in helping to secure protections for the Lyre-Hoko Watershed, email CELP at contact@celp.org.