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Spokane River advocates petition state to increase summertime water flow

Water is needed for river health, fish, recreational boaters, and scenic beauty

March 1, 2016

Spokane – On Monday, advocates for the Spokane River petitioned the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) to increase its flow rule for the popular and heavily-used Spokane River.  The Spokane River is a much beloved urban river that flows through the second largest city in Washington State, including spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge. Conservationists are seeking a minimum summertime flow of 1,800 – 2800 cubic feet per second (CFS) to support fisheries and recreation, and protect higher flows for recreation when available.

“We are asking Washington state to ‘go with the flow,’ amend its inadequate flow rule, and protect the people’s river,” said John Roskelley, kayaker, author, and vice president of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Last summer the whole community lived through drought and witnessed the Spokane River reduced to a trickle amid boulder fields. The state has a trust responsibility for our river, and must do its job.”

Nearly 2,000 comments, including boater surveys and aesthetic inventories, were submitted to the Department of Ecology during the public-comment period on the draft rule. The state agency ignored all public comments in support of protecting the Spokane River, and adopted unchanged its flow rule of 850 CFS – river flows that are low and jeopardize the Spokane River and public uses.

Petitioners have retained Dr. Doug Whittaker and Dr. Bo Shelby, who are experts in recreation and aesthetic flows from Confluence Research and Consulting, to evaluate appropriate flows. Drs. Shelby and Whittaker participated in establishing aesthetic flows for Spokane Falls, and are the foremost national experts on flows. They conclude that the Department of Ecology’s adopted flows are inadequate to support most types of recreational boating on the river. Higher flows in the Spokane River, when available, should be protected. Read their full report here.

“Spokane River fisheries need cold, abundant water,” said Roskelley. “The Department of Ecology erred in concluding that more water is bad for fish, thereby justifying its decision not to protect Spokane River flows.” In response, petitioners submitted a report prepared by Prof. Allan Scholz, retired Eastern Washington University fisheries biologist and professor. Prof. Scholz is author of a multivolume treatise on Eastern Washington fisheries, and is one of the foremost experts on Spokane River redband trout.

Prof. Scholz determined that the state’s flow rule — setting the Spokane River flow rate at 850 CFS below the Monroe Street Dam in the summer — is inadequate to protect and restore a healthy redband trout population, and that the scientific study prepared in support of the rate was flawed. Conservationists point out that the Department of Ecology could have accommodated the needs of both river recreationists and fish without sacrificing fish.

“Our city owes its origins, its beauty, and a great deal of its past and present life to the Spokane River,” said Tom Soeldner, co-chair of Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group based in Spokane.  “It would be a betrayal of the river and our identity if we did not maintain healthy and aesthetic river flows.”

Petitioners point out that Ecology has a duty under state law and the public trust doctrine to amend the rule to adopt flows that are fully protective of all public instream values, including fish and wildlife, recreation, navigation, water quality, and scenic beauty. Flows that are not protected are at risk to be diverted from the Spokane River for out-of-stream water uses, including Idaho pumpers, the City of Spokane, and the Office of the Columbia River’s Spokane-Rathdrum ASR project.

“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows sets a dangerous precedent for Washington State’s rivers,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater “Our state’s river face many demands but ultimately we have a collective responsibility for the stewardship and protection of our state’s rivers, and Department of Ecology must protect the diversity of beneficial uses our rivers provide including recreation.”

In setting instream flows, the Department of Ecology failed to listen to boaters who use the Spokane River and businesses that depend on Spokane River recreation. Ecology also failed to conduct a basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge and Riverside State Park – important to users of the Centennial Trail and others.

“The state needs to fulfill its trust and stewardship responsibilities to protect the Spokane River for present and future generations,” said Andrea Rodgers, attorney with Western Environmental Law Center. “Setting flow rates for the river that do not protect fish, sacrifice recreational boaters’ uses of the river, and cost Spokane businesses needed income is an abdication of the state’s legal duty.”

The Department of Ecology has 60 days to respond to the citizens’ petition. Petitioners are Sierra Club, CELP, and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Andrea Rodgers (WELC) and Dan Von Seggern (CELP).

Links –


Religious leader to be honored for advancing ethics for Columbia River

Bishop William Skylstad led The Columbia River Pastoral Letter team, which set forth an ethics foundation for dialogue on Columbia River concerns

The Letter would “…serve as a catalyst for further discussion toward the resolution of the complex issues of the Columbia River Watershed” in order… “to effect a spiritual, social and ecological transformation of the watershed.”  – The Columbia River Pastoral Letter

Pastoral LetterWhen: Friday evening, March 4, 2016, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Where: Spokane, Patsy Clark Mansion 2208 West 2nd Ave.

Who: Bishop William Skylstad and members of the Steering Committee for The Columbia River Pastoral Letter

Contacts & RSVP:   John Osborn john@waterplanet.ws 509.939-1290; Tom Soeldner waltsoe@gmail.com 509.270-6995

Tickets: $35 per person

Timeliness and relevance: After over eight years of review and discussion, the United States and Canada are moving closer to renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty.   This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of The Columbia River Pastoral Letter that sought to “serve as a catalyst for further discussion toward the resolution of the complex issues of the Columbia River Watershed.”

The Columbia River Pastoral Letter is a unique international document signed by the Catholic Bishops of the international watershed, which uses environmental criteria rather than political boundaries to define its scope. Published in 2001, the Pastoral Letter was based on Catholic teaching of caring for God’s creation and involved a series of basin-wide listening sessions conducted by a steering committee chaired by Bishop William Skylstad.

The pastoral letter was chosen as a foundation for the ongoing conference series “One River, Ethics Matter” in the Columbia Basin. The conference series, modeled after South Africa’s “Truth & Reconciliation Process” on the impacts of apartheid, focuses on the wrenching impacts of the dam-building era on Columbia Basin tribes and First Nations, and the river. Using the pastoral letter, these conferences encourage a regional dialogue in the United States and Canada about modernizing the Columbia River Treaty based on ethical principles of stewardship and justice. Conferences were held at Gonzaga University in Spokane (2014), and the University of Portland (2015). The next conference will be held March 14 at Boise State University.

Pope Francis’s Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and the Columbia River Pastoral Letter provide powerful tools for encouraging respectful dialogue and improving the quality of ethical decision about the global environment in a time of climate change.

About this honoring event:  “Winter Waters” is held annually in Spokane to celebrate work to restore the Upper Columbia River and honor people who have made a significant contribution to protecting water for the common good. The event is jointly hosted by Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, with the awards presented by Sierra Club.

Event Sponsors:  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  *  Catholic Diocese of Spokane  *  Tom Soeldner & Linda Finney  *  John & Joyce Rosekelley  *  Chris & Michelle Kopczynski  *  Jeff Lambert  *  Burl O. Gray (in memorium)  *  Eymann Allison Hunter Jones PS  *  Smith & Lowney, PLLC  *  John & Rachael Osborn

Links:


WSU water plan falls short in many ways

WSU Water Plan:  Friday is deadline for public comment

Email comments to: ehs@wsu.edu.
WSU release on topic:   bit.ly/WSUwater

Contacts

Washington State University’s plan for protecting its Pullman campus water supply is too optimistic about the potential for storing spring runoff as a supplement to its declining groundwater supply, conservationists say. Friday is the final day for public comment on the university’s draft water plan, which the state Department of Health requires it to write.

Conservationists have concerns about the draft WSU Water Plan that include:

  • Too much reliance on the possibility of storing spring runoff from the Palouse River underground. A suitable underground place to store the water has yet to be found, and the method has not worked well for other communities in Washington.
  • Lack of water meters on 57% of campus buildings and landscaping. WSU is behind in meeting the state requirement to track how much water is used, and monitor for leaks. WSU has failed in the 13 years since the Municipal Water Law was enacted to meter all of its service connections.
  • Lack of a solid water conservation messaging plan, so that students, faculty and the greater community can be part of the solution.
  • Continued deference to Palouse Ridge Golf Club. The university course, operated by Course Co. Inc., uses 10 percent of water on campus. The water for the golf course, as well as the electrical energy to pump it, is provided to the corporation free of charge. Nowhere else can a private entrepreneur get 48 million gallons of water a year for free to run its business.
  • The university has failed in its attempts to get state funding for a system that would use reclaimed water for golf course irrigation and other campus landscaping. WSU could easily fund this project were it serious about conserving our groundwater.

Conservationists also questioned a report, cited in WSU’s water plan, that contends that the aquifer is being recharged nearly as quickly as the water is pumped. According to the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, the aquifer is dropping nearly seven-tenths of a foot each year.

“While WSU Pullman is using less water than it has in the past, it is falling short in many ways,” said John Osborn with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “WSU shows little regard for its neighbors, Pullman and Moscow, Idaho as well as nearby rural residents, as the Grande Ronde Aquifer on which all rely, continues to drop. Science can’t say when the water will drop too low to pump, but they know that day of reckoning will come.”

“Relying on recharging the pure 10,000 year-old water in the aquifer with contaminated surface water is a questionable strategy,” said Al Poplawsky, chair of Sierra Club’s Palouse Group. “Conservation of our pristine, irreplaceable water should come first.”

The Grande Ronde aquifer, the sole source of water for many in the Palouse Basin, is very high quality ice-age water. When Pullman was being developed, there were artesian wells. Now, the water is far underground. “This is not a resource to be squandered,” noted David Hall. “WSU has conserved water in some areas, but it should be more aggressive with continued conservation and education goals.”

Nearby resident Scotty Cornelius also has a well in the Grande Ronde Aquifer, and his water level is dropping at the same rate. “Unlike WSU, I can’t afford to drill 800 feet to water. WSU frequently describes itself as oriented toward sustainability initiatives, but our declining aquifer is the biggest sustainability issue on the Palouse and WSU is squandering this precious resource.”

 


Portland Conference on Ethics, Columbia River Treaty

News Advisory:  October 13

Regional river ethics conference to focus on Portland’s floodplain development, international impacts, modernizing the Columbia River Treaty

Contacts:

  • Steve Kolmes, PhD, University of Portland (503) 943-7291 kolmes@up.edu
  • Jim Heffernan, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (503) 731-1303 hefj@critfc.org
  • John Osborn MD, Ethics & Treaty Project (509) 939-1290 john@waterplanet.ws

Conference:

  • When: October 24, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Where: University of Portland – Buckley Center Auditorium
  • Cost: Free and open to the public
  • RSVP: Belgin Inan inanb@up.edu  503.943-8342
  • RSVP deadline: October 16

Links:

One month after Pope Francis spoke to Congress, the people of the Portland region are invited to join in a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River Treaty that governs water management in the river basin. The conference will open with comments from Bishop William Skylstad on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. Next, tribal elders and others impacted directly by the dam-building era will describe epic losses suffered in the Columbia Basin.  The conference will conclude with a panel discussion about the important opportunity to modernize the Columbia River Treaty through upcoming negotiations between Canada and the United States.

Portland’s conference location is near the site of the 1948 Vanport Flood. While power development objectives initiated discussion with Canada in 1944 about a water treaty, the Vanport Flood accelerated the technical studies that led to the Columbia River Treaty. Edward Washington survived the Vanport flood and will recall what happened to his family and community on that terrible day. Crystal Spicer, from interior British Columbia, will describe the Treaty dams’ impacts on her family, neighbors, and the Upper Columbia, including the forced relocation of 2,300 people from family and ancestral lands that were flooded under the Treaty. The conference will explore various measures that can be used to right historic wrongs resulting from the dam-building era such as restoring salmon to historical spawning areas now blocked by dams, and improving floodplain management in the face of climate change.

Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, the “One River, Ethics Matter” conference series explores the moral dimensions and impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations, salmon and the river. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference in Spokane in May 2014, where religious leaders issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. The October 24th conference is the second conference in the series and focuses on flood risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship.

International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change.  “One River, Ethics Matter” uses the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and builds upon the tools used by international water forums to help establish a water ethic as a foundation for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

___________________

Hosted by the University of Portland

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Sponsors:

McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics  *  Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission  *  Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition  *  Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland  *  Okanagan Nation Alliance  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon  *  Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation  *  Pacific Rivers Council  *  WaterWatch of Oregon  *  Citizens for a Clean Columbia  *  Columbia Riverkeeper  *  Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society  *  Sweo Chair in Engineering  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  The Roskelley Family  *  Molter Chair in Science   *  Save Our Wild Salmon  *  Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club  *  Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter  *  ATRIA  *  Francis Maltby  *  Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club  *  Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 


Washington Supreme Court protects water flowing in streams

Decision part of growing concern about Department of Ecology mismanaging state’s waters in face of climate change

Deschutes River - Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Deschutes River – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

On October 8th, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Ecology’s approval of the City of Yelm’s new water right because the new right would impair existing instream flows in local streams and the Nisqually River. The Court concluded that the state agency’s decision was unlawful because Ecology improperly used a narrow exception in the water code to issue the right, and because Ecology relied on out-of-kind mitigation measures to justify issuance of the water right.   The legal action brought by Sara Foster, a small farm owner in the City of Yelm, was filed in 2011 because of concerns that overpumping groundwater would adversely impact local waterways. This latest decision is set in the context of growing criticism about the Department of Ecology’s mismanagement of the state’s waters through historic over-allocation of water rights and in the face of climate change.

“The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the state’s responsibility to protect instream flows,” said Patrick Williams, attorney for Sara Foster. “The decision makes it clear that Ecology must abide by state water laws when approving new water rights.”

The Foster decision means that the Department of Ecology, which is responsible for managing the state’s waters, cannot issue new water rights that will permanently deplete protected flows in rivers.

“I’m thrilled with the decision because it means the water levels in streams in rivers I, and others, enjoy so much will be protected now and in the future,” said Sara Foster, plaintiff in the case.

The Foster decision reaffirms a 2013 Supreme Court decision in a case brought by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to protect stream flows in the Skagit River basin. In Swinomish, the Court held that Ecology could not use the narrow water code exemption permanently impair existing instream flows through water reservations for future use. Pursuant to today’s decision, Ecology cannot issue individual water rights that would impact instream flows. Together, Swinomish and Foster underscore that Ecology cannot continue to deplete river flows to meet future water demand.

“It is time for the state to look at water efficiency and conservation and water reuse for new sources of water instead of taking water from instream flows,” added Williams. “The water frontier is over.”

The Foster decision also holds that Ecology may not use non-water environmental restoration projects as a basis for issuing water rights. Ecology has issued a handful of water right decisions allowing river depletion in exchange for activities such as wetland restoration, floodplain easements, placement of large woody debris in rivers, and monetary payments.

“Ecology is increasingly relying on “out-of-kind” mitigation projects as a basis for issuing new water rights,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior policy adviser for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Today the Court has clarified that habitat projects or monetary payments cannot substitute for water. This is a very good decision for Washington’s over-allocated and much-depleted rivers and aquifers.”

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy provided support to Sara Foster through its Water Rights 9-1-1 program helping citizens struggling with water resource issues, and filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case.


CELP Files Legal Action to Stop Pollution from Leavenworth Hatchery

For 36 years, federal hatchery has been illegally polluting Icicle Creek

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery - photo by John OsbornTuesday September 29, 2015 – Today, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) and Wild Fish Conservancy announced they filed legal action to compel the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to clean-up the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery now polluting Icicle Creek.

FWS discharges a wide variety of pollutants into Icicle Creek from the federal hatchery located near Leavenworth, Washington, without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. An NPDES permit is required by the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and would place limits on pollutant discharges. The Hatchery’s permit expired in 1979, and for the past thirty-six years FWS has operated the hatchery in violation of the CWA. Despite repeated requests over many years to update the Hatchery’s operations, including a 60-day notice filed in July, federal officials have continued to operate the facility without obtaining a new permit.

Pollutants released from the Hatchery to Icicle Creek include disease control chemicals, pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics, chemicals used for disinfection and other fish culture purposes, residual chemical reagents, salts, and chlorinated water. The excess phosphorus discharged by the Hatchery has caused violations of the applicable water quality criterion for pH in lower Icicle Creek. This phosphorus loading also contributes to violations of water quality standards in the Wenatchee River.

Icicle Creek - photo by John Osborn

Icicle Creek – photo by John Osborn

“The Clean Water Act is the main mechanism through which pollution of our waters is prevented, and the Hatchery is obligated to apply for a permit and to operate according to its conditions,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for CELP. “Filing a lawsuit is a last resort. However, a great deal of effort by many groups and individuals to get the Hatchery to obey the law has been unsuccessful. This litigation is aimed at ensuring that the federal agency carries out its work to augment salmon runs without harming Icicle Creek.”

“By not having a current NPDES permit, the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery has been in violation of the Clean Water Act for thirty five years,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Over the past fifteen years we have worked with local citizens and representatives of state, federal, and tribal agencies to try to get the Leavenworth Hatchery to comply with state and federal law to protect and restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act and to restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. It is discouraging to realize that yet again the Hatchery blatantly disregards its legal obligations and the needs of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. The saddest part of this is the public is unknowingly paying for it.”

The Leavenworth National Hatchery was constructed between 1939 and 1941 near Leavenworth, Washington, and is located on the banks of Icicle Creek approximately three miles from the river’s confluence with the Wenatchee River. The federal hatchery has a long history of violations of federal environmental laws. Despite repeated attempts, including litigation, the federal facility continues to be in violation of federal laws, notably the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Wild Fish Conservancy and CELP are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR.

Link –

Contacts –

  • Dan Von Seggern, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, 206.829-8299
  • Contact: Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy, 425-788-1167
  • Brian Knutsen, Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, 503-841-6515

Your RSVP requested: Portland Conference Oct. 24

Save the Date: Saturday October 24 at the University of Portland


Pastoral LetterModernizing the Columbia River Treaty

One River.

Ethics Matter.
____________________

One month after Pope Francis speaks to Congress, we invite you to join us at the University of Portland’s Buckley Center Auditorium on Saturday, October 24 from 8 am – 4 pm, for a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River. This event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided.

Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, “One River, Ethics Matter” is a conference series exploring the moral dimensions of the impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations and the river itself. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference from which issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty signed by religious and indigenous leaders and many others. Please join us for the second of these conferences with a focus on flood-risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship. We’ll explore measures to correct historic injustice — including less environmentally damaging options to protect Portland from floods and restoring salmon to ancestral spawning grounds. Support is growing to expand the treaty’s original purposes (flood risk management and hydropower) by adding a third purpose: “ecosystem function” to restore health to the Columbia River, including the return of salmon to ancestral spawning waters.

The Portland conference will open with Bishop William Skylstad, the force behind the Columbia River Pastoral Letter, and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) speaking on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. Other speakers will include Virgil Seymour who will describe the fate of the Sinixt Nation located in the Upper Columbia and declared “extinct” by Canada in 1956 during Treaty negotiations with the United States.  Crystal Spicer will describe the valiant effort by her father to save their family home and farm while 2,300 people were forced by the B.C. government to relocated. The conference will conclude with a discussion of the current opportunities to modernize the Columbia River Treaty that governs management of the River, while underscoring the need to revisit flood risk management.

International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change.  “One River, Ethics Matter” intends to use the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and the tools used by hospital ethics committees to help establish a water ethic as foundational for international decisions on water.

RSVP contact:  Belgin Inan inanb@up.edu 503.943.8342

RSVP deadline:  October 16  

Conference Poster  print ~ post ~ share

Link to Facebook and share

History of the Creation of the Columbia River Treaty

Vanport, Oregon - Photo from Blackpast.org

Vanport, Oregon – Photo from Blackpast.org

The 1948 flooding of the city of Vanport, outside of Portland, helped launch the creation of the Columbia River Treaty. To provide housing for Kaiser shipyard workers and their families, the Columbia River was diked and public housing built on the floodplain in 1942.  Adjacent to Portland near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Vanport was at one point Oregon’s second largest city.  In 1948 during a flood event, the dikes gave way. The flooding of Vanport was the Hurricane Katrina story of its day. Fifteen people died, and the city was destroyed.

celilo CRITFC

Celilo Falls – Indians fishing at the falls in the 1950s. From Northwest Power and Conservation Council website, photo from Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

 

But the story did not end there.  Vanport was used to justify the need for more flood protection – resulting in the damming and permanent flooding of river valleys in interior British Columbia and Montana – the “Treaty dams.”   These dams came at the end of the dam-building era in the Columbia that transformed the River into a machine with devastating consequences for salmon, tribes and First Nations, and the river itself.  Today the great salmon gathering places of Celilo Falls and Kettle Falls are underwater, flooded by reservoirs.

 

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 was legendary for salmon gathering place for tribes since time immemorial — now flooded by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee dam. (Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture photo)

While-her-house-burns..._2

Dam-building, interior British Columbia: burning homes in Renata B.C.. Dams permanently flooded river valleys of the Upper Columbia to provide flood protection for Portland.

Kettle Falls, Ceremony of Tears. Colville Tribal women in ceremonial dress, gathered for the Ceremony of Tears. In June 1940, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people mourned the drowning of Kettle Falls at a “Ceremony of Tears” organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes and attended by representatives of the Yakama, Spokane, Nez Perce, Salish, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Coeur d’Alene, Tulalip, Pend Oreille, and other tribes. Kettle Falls slipped beneath the rising waters of Lake Roosevelt on July 5, 1941. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)

Kettle Falls, Ceremony of Tears. Colville Tribal women in ceremonial dress, gathered for the Ceremony of Tears. In June 1940, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people mourned the drowning of Kettle Falls at a “Ceremony of Tears” organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes and attended by representatives of the Yakama, Spokane, Nez Perce, Salish, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Coeur d’Alene, Tulalip, Pend Oreille, and other tribes. Kettle Falls slipped beneath the rising waters of Lake Roosevelt on July 5, 1941. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)

Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors

McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics  *  Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission  *  Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition  * Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland  *  Okanagan Nation Alliance  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon  *  Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation  *  Pacific Rivers Council  *  WaterWatch of Oregon  *  Citizens for a Clean Columbia  *  Columbia Riverkeeper  *  Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society  *  Sweo Chair in Engineering  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  The Roskelley Family  *  Molter Chair in Science   *  Save Our wild Salmon  *  Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club  *  Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter  *  ATRIA  *  Francis Maltby  *  Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club  *  Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Conference Links –

Overview

Agenda

Declaration on Ethics & modernizing the Treaty

 


Water Use at Historic High, Spokane River near Historic Low

Update and correction from the H2KNOW campaign:  the data for this blog post were from the USGS website, and have subsequently been revised upward to flows around 700cfs.  “Provisional Data Subject to Revision” is noted on the river gage website.  Current flows of around 700 are extremely low, while not yet at historic lows. Despite low flows, water use remains high.

H2KNOWriverlow-1

Spokane River flows dropping

 Plea for community to conserve water to help struggling river

Today the H2KNOW community water-conservation campaign sounded the alarm that water levels in the Spokane River dropped below 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time this summer.   Meanwhile, City of Spokane water use is at an all-time high: 3.8 billion gallons in July, or 122 million gallons of water each day.

“Our Spokane River is in trouble, and we must conserve water,” said John Osborn with the new H2KNOW water conservation campaign. “We must use water wisely to help our struggling river.”

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher).  River flows were at 630cfs.  photo - John Osborn

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (looking upstream from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher). On August 8, 2015, river flows were at 630 cfs. photo – John Osborn

Water supply is provided by groundwater from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The Aquifer also supplies water to the Spokane River. Increased groundwater pumping for human use directly depletes flow in the River.

Hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees are forecast again for much of this week. Drought combined with excessive water use by the 500,000 people living in this basin are causing historic extremes in low flow for the Spokane River. The lowest flows ever recorded are in the mid-400 cfs range, and we have begun to break the record according to the USGS Spokane River gage. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and businesses that depend on the river.

“Conserve water for the river’s sake,” said Tom Soeldner, a retired Lutheran pastor who co-chair’s Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “There is a void in leadership from our government on water conservation during this drought. We as individuals must take responsibility for protecting our Spokane River.”

Five actions that people can take to conserve water and help our Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop overwatering grass)
  2. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  3. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  4. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)
  5. Replace your lawn with low-water plants

Comparing flows now with prior years underscores the terrible condition of the river and the need for people to act.   One year ago, in 2014, lowest flows were about 900cfs.   When Spokane was a young city in the 1890s, flows ranged from 1500-2000cfs in August. River flows are monitored at a stream gage near the Monroe Street dam, the oldest continuous gage in Washington State.

During the first week of August, the H2KNOW campaign launched a regional public education effort to help people understand the connection between aquifer and river, and the need to conserve water during this drought summer and beyond.   For more on the water conservation campaign and what people can do, visit www.H2KNOW.info

 

 


“H2know: Our Spokane River Is Low!”

H2KNOWriverlow

Water Awareness Campaign launched in Spokane this week

kids news conference JO photo 8-5-2015

During this summer of drought, river advocates are highlighting the message: conserve water to protect our Spokane River. (CELP photo)

This morning, where the aquifer springs bubble up and flow into the Spokane River near the TJ Meenach bridge, a concerned group of Spokane citizens launched, “H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low!” a public awareness campaign that highlights the critical relationship between human water usage, the aquifer and the flow of the Spokane River.

Campaign co-organizer John Osborn, a Spokane physician and conservationist, as well as CELP’s Board Chair, reached down and scooped up aquifer-spring water and said, “Nearly every bucket of this aquifer water we use is a bucket that doesn’t flow into the Spokane River.” Pouring the water back into the River, Osborn encouraged, “While we should conserve water anyway, we have a very special reason to use water wisely: when we pump our aquifer, we rob our river. That’s why we created H2KNOW public awareness campaign to help save our Spokane River.”

Spokane citizens are encouraged to visit www.H2KNOW.info for more information and tips on how conserve water in and around our homes, especially this summer.

H2KNOW aims to educate and motivate Spokane-area citizens about the low river flow that has been brought on very early this summer due to low snow and record-high heat. Osborn noted that water levels are approaching record lows, and it’s only early August.

John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner and clean water advocate (and CELP board member) spoke to the economic and recreational loss that is tied to the River’s low flow, “The Spokane River is what our quality of life is all about,” he said. “This is not just about today or tomorrow, but about this community’s future. The river drives a great deal of our economy from tourism to industry and impacts small businesses and home owners. Near nature; near perfect is not just a slogan, but a way of life here and the river has a great deal to do with it.”

billboard JO photo 8-5-2015

In Spokane, seven billboards were posted this week as part of a public education campaign to conserve water to help the Spokane River at extremely low flows. (CELP photo)

“H2KNOW” billboards appeared around Spokane beginning Friday, August 1st. One version reads, “Know the Flow – River Running Low,” with a tied-off garden hose and dry rock in the river. Another features a snake-like coiled garden hose and a great blue heron with the question, “Is Your Hose Draining Her Habitat?”

Tina Wynecoop, whose husband is a Spokane Tribe of Indians elder, noted the tremendous efforts to clean up Spokane River pollution and the need now to focus on protecting the river’s flow. “The river is gasping for water. Especially during this year of drought, we need to protect the aquifer that gives the river its ‘breath.’”

With the H2KNOW campaign officially launched, organizers are now actively forming alliances with stakeholders, scheduling speaking opportunities, and most of all, will continue working with a person-to-person approach to increasing public awareness.  John Osborn wrapped up today’s campaign kickoff event by calling on all Spokane-area citizens to “think about our Spokane River and wildlife who depend on these waters every time you turn on a water faucet.”

The campaign is supported by Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.

 


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.)