Northwest, British Columbia need to stand together to modernize the Columbia River Treaty

News Release – June 22, 2017

Conservation and faith groups respond to seven NW Members of Congress:

Yes – negotiations need to move forward – but include restoring the Columbia’s health and avoid threatening Canada with treaty termination.  

Contacts –

Portland – Responding to a letter to President Trump signed by seven Members of Congress (MOCs) from the Northwest, today Northwest conservation and faith groups encouraged the United States to work for restoring the health of the Columbia and avoid threatening Canada with termination of the Columbia River Treaty. The United States currently has the authority to begin negotiations but the federal government in Canada has not finalized its position. The provincial elections in British Columbia and efforts to install Provincial leadership in the wake of the tight vote last month have also contributed to the delay in finalizing the Canadian federal government’s position.

“The people of the Columbia River Basin – in both nations – can ‘hang together or hang separately,’” said Joseph Bogaard of Save Our wild Salmon.  “We support moving forward to negotiate a modern Columbia River Treaty. But terminating the Treaty, or threatening to do so, is counter-productive. Our leaders in both nations need to work together, in good faith, to manage the Columbia River for the Common Good.”

The Columbia River is an international river managed jointly by the United States and Canada using the Columbia River Treaty. The Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin is water rich, comprising only about 15 percent of the Basin’s land area, but producing about 40 percent of the River Basin’s water. Two centuries ago when Lewis & Clark and David Thompson first greeted indigenous people of the river basin, the Columbia was among the richest salmon rivers on earth. Since then, large dams and reservoirs have transformed the river into an integrated hydropower system.

On June 21, seven members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump, outlining the history of the Columbia River Treaty, encouraging treaty negotiation and threatening treaty termination. The MOC letter does not include several important historical elements, including that communities in the Columbia Basin, especially tribes and First Nations, were never consulted in writing the international river treaty. Nor does the MOC letter mention that the benefits of damming the Columbia River for hydropower and flood risk management came with wrenching costs to salmon and people who depend on the river.

“The United States has come a very long way to try work with Canada to right historic wrongs and support river stewardship,” said John Osborn, a Northwest physician with the Ethics & Treaty Project. “We continue to encourage the Treaty Power Group and elected officials that the way forward is working in good faith and through respectful dialogue with our neighbors to the north to promote the Common Good — including river stewardship and passage for salmon now blocked by dams.”

In 2013 following years of discussions and thousands of letters from concerned citizens, federal agencies recommended that the State Department include restoring the river’s health (“Ecosystem Management”) as a primary purpose of an updated treaty, along with hydropower and flood control. All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.  In 2016 the United States began encouraging Canada to negotiate.

“Citizens of the Columbia Basin care about power bills but also care about stewardship, social justice, and advancing the Common Good,” said The Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner, a retired Lutheran minister and educator. “Threatening Canada with treaty termination carries great risks to all life in the Basin now and into the future — including deep drawdowns of U.S. reservoirs in Idaho and elsewhere in the Basin, which will negatively affect the Columbia River ecosystem and power generation.”

The Treaty Power Group’s, and some congressional members’ willingness to threaten termination is short-sighted and undermines the goodwill and constructive approach that is needed to address the full range of issues that must be addressed in a modern river treaty. If the Treaty is terminated, then the U.S. will be required to shoulder the entire burden of flood risk management with U.S. dams, with no assistance from assured flood storage from Canada. This will cost the U.S. billions of dollars in flood protection and recompense from its own dams — and destroy coordinated and cooperative U.S. and Canada flood risk management that has existed as an international model for more than 50 years.

“Protecting and restoring healthy salmon populations in the Columbia Basin represents an unparalleled opportunity for our region to invest in the economy, create family-wage jobs and improve our quality of life and the health of our environment,” said Greg Haller, Conservation Director for the Pacific Rivers Council. “Healthy salmon populations deliver valuable and irreplaceable benefits to our region’s economy and ecology including thousands of jobs in guiding, retail sales, manufacturing, tourism, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

Links –

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Protecting Spokane River summertime flows goes to court

News Advisory – Court hearing on June 9

Contacts:

  • Dan Von Seggern, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, (206) 829-8299, dvonseggern@celp.org
  • Andrew Hawley, Western Environmental Law Center, (206) 487-7250, hawley@westernlaw.org
  • John Roskelley, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, (509) 954-5653 john@johnroskelley.com
  • Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater, (425) 417-9012 okeefe@americanwhitewater.org
  • Tom Soeldner, Sierra Club, Upper Columbia River Group, (509) 270-6995 waltsoe@gmail.com

Next step in process essential for future of river and Spokane community

Issue: When water is flowing in the Spokane River during hot summer months, should the River’s water be protected for community recreational and aesthetic use and river fish and wildlife — or should it be available to be taken from the River by the State Dept of Ecology through the granting of water rights?

State court: Thurston County Superior Court, Hon. James Dixon, Judge.

Where: Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive, Olympia

When: Friday, June 9 1:30 PM.

Spokane River issues before the court

The beloved Spokane River flows through the second largest city in Washington state, including spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge. In most summers, enough water flows in the River to support fishing, river rafting, and other outdoor recreation. River advocates asking the Court to hold the Department of Ecology to its duty to protect fish and wildlife, scenic, aesthetic and recreational values, and navigation, when establishing the minimum summer flows allowable for the Spokane River.

Overwhelming public support…ignored

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. In setting instream flows, the Department of Ecology’s decision failed to take into account boaters who use the Spokane River, fishermen who pursue the river’s wild redband trout, 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.

Overall the state agency ignored all public comments in support of protecting the Spokane River and adopted unchanged its flow rule of 850 cubic feet per second (CFS) – near-drought level river flows that will jeopardize the Spokane River and its public uses.

Need to protect recreational use of the Spokane River

River advocates retained Dr. Doug Whittaker and Dr. Bo Shelby, experts in recreation and aesthetic flows from Confluence Research and Consulting, to evaluate appropriate flows. Dr. Shelby and Dr. Whittaker participated in establishing aesthetic flows for Spokane Falls, and are the foremost national experts on flows. They concluded 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.

Fish need water

Spokane River fisheries need cold, abundant water. 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 below the Monroe Street Dam in the summer at 850 CFS – is inadequate to protect and restore a healthy redband trout population, and that the scientific study prepared in support of the rate was flawed. The Department of Ecology could have accommodated the needs of river recreationists and fish without sacrificing fish.

Protecting aesthetics in the city’s heart

“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.”

Flows not protected in the flow rule are flows lost to the river

The Department of Ecology has a duty under state law and the public trust doctrine to adopt flows that are fully protective of all public instream values, including fish and wildlife, recreation, navigation, water quality, and scenic beauty. Again, 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.

Appellants are Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Dan Von Seggern (CELP) and  Andrew Hawley (WELC).

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Washington Water Watch: May 2017 Edition

In this issue, read about our upcoming Celebrate Water event and a bio of the Ralph Johnson awardee, John Osborn, meet our summer legal intern, learn about our latest victory on Icicle Creek, a recap on the Revelstoke, B.C. One River – Ethics Matter conference, and enjoy an update on the culvert case!

Read the May issue of Water Watch here.


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

 


Icicle Creek, Leavenworth Federal Fish Hatchery

News Release

For immediate release, May 4, 2017

Contacts –

  • Trish Rolfe, Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP),  206.829-8299
  • Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy,  425-788-1167
  • Brian Knutsen, Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC,  503-841-651

Court: Leavenworth Federal Fish Hatchery violating Clean Water laws

Federal agencies required to upgrade federal fish hatchery to protect Icicle Creek, Wenatchee River – after 38 years of delay

On May 3, the U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr. issued an injunction against the federal fish hatchery at Leavenworth, WA, after ruling in January that the hatchery was unlawfully discharging pollutants to Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River. The latest court order provides that the injunctive requirements will terminate if and when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues a pollution discharge permit to the hatchery. The federal facility, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been unlawfully discharging without the required permit since 1979.

“This is an important victory for Icicle Creek,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “The Leavenworth Hatchery is dilapidated and old, with decades of deferred maintenance that needs serious upgrades. This is unacceptable under the Clean Water Act and harms the public’s interest in Icicle Creek. The court’s Order will result in state-of-the-art upgrades at the hatchery resulting in decreased water use and improved treatment. The result will be cleaner water and higher flows in the stream.”

Since 1979, the Hatchery has been operating without a valid pollution permit. Judge Mendoza’s January ruled confirmed the violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The May 3 injunction requires the hatchery to reduce the amount of phosphorus it discharges by September 1, 2019, to the amount necessary for Icicle Creek to meet water quality standards designed to support salmon and other fish. The Court’s injunction leaves open the opportunity for the Hatchery to obtain a new discharge permit, called an “NPDES” permit, from EPA, in which case that permit would set the schedule for the Hatchery to reduce its phosphorus discharges. Either way, the Hatchery will be forced to undertake long-delayed upgrades, including wastewater treatment technology to protect Icicle Creek.

Icicle Creek is a tributary to the Wenatchee River, and drains a portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The stream is home to threatened and endangered fish species, including steelhead, Chinook salmon, and bull trout. The Hatchery is located on the banks of Icicle Creek, approximately three miles from the river’s confluence with the Wenatchee River.

The Leavenworth Hatchery raises 1.2 million fish annually in a confined space, generating pollutants that are released untreated into Icicle Creek. Pollutants 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 phosphorus discharge contributes to Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River failing to meet water quality standards for dissolved oxygen and pH.

“This court decision will require the federal agency to do what it should have done long ago: invest in hatchery upgrades,” 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 bring the Leavenworth Hatchery into compliance with state and federal laws to protect and restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and to restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. Now the federal agency is under court order to do so.”

The Leavenworth Hatchery is part of a controversial process convened by the Washington Department of Ecology and known as the Icicle Work Group. Hatchery improvements are on the list of IWG goals, but are proposed only in exchange for diverting water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for municipal supply for the City of Leavenworth.

“The Court injunction holds the promise of a new chapter at the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery – in which federal officials are committed to clean water, instream flows, and producing hatchery fish,” said attorney Brian Knutsen, of Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC. “No longer can decades of delay in hatchery upgrades be used as a bargaining chip to raise dams and drain more water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.”

The Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery was constructed between 1939 and 1941 near Leavenworth, Washington, as partial mitigation for massive salmon losses that resulted from building Grand Coulee Dam.

CELP is represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR and Seattle, WA.

Links:

 

 

 


May 13 in Revelstoke: 4th international “One River – Ethics Matter” conference

Ethics & Treaty Project

News Advisory – issued May 3

Revelstoke B.C. to host “One River – Ethics Matter” conference on dams, reservoirs, Treaty, past and future of the Columbia River

Righting historic wrongs, advancing river stewardship during climate change is focus

Saturday, May 13

Contacts:

Conference:

  • When: May 13, 8am-4:30pm
  • Where: Community Centre, Revelstoke, British Columbia  (600 Campbell Ave)
  • Cost: Free and open to the public
  • To RSVP: Laura Stovel lstovel0@gmail.com 250.814-8971

Additional Links

Background to Revelstoke, B.C.: One River – Ethics Matter

Religious and First Nation leaders from the Upper Columbia River will lead a one-day conference on ethics, and the past and future of the Columbia River. The conference series is a multi-year undertaking based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter issued in 2001 by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed, and tools used by hospital ethics consultation services.

The one-day river ethics conference brings together faith, indigenous and education leaders. Faith leadership include Anglican Archbishop John Privett, Roman Catholic Bishop John Corriveau, and Rev. Greg Powell of the Kootenay Presbytery. First Nation and tribal leadership include Chief Wayne Christian (Secwepemc), Sandra Luke and Marty Williams (Ktunaxa), Pauline Terbasket (Okanagan Nation Alliance), and D.R. Michel (Upper Columbia United Tribes) and Stevey Seymour (Sinixt/Arrow Lakes Band). Scholars and educators include Jeannette Armstrong (En’owkin Centre, Syilx scholar), Angus Graeme (President, Selkirk College), and Ariel McDowell (Principal of Aboriginal Education, School District 19).  Click to view the full agenda and list of speakers.

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. The Columbia River Pastoral Letter, issued by Northwest Catholic bishops in 2001, provides a foundation and framework for the conference series. This series is modeled on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation public dialogue in the wake of apartheid. This Revelstoke conference follows three in Spokane (2014), Portland (2015), and Boise (2016).   The fifth conference will be held in western Montana in 2017. (for more, see Ethics and Treaty Project).

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.

Conference hosts:

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

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

 

 

 

 


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.