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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.


June Issue of Washington Water Watch

Click here to read the June issue of Water Watch.

This month’s issue of Water Watch features an interview with Professor William H. Rodgers, a remembrance of Sixnit leader Virgil Seymour, an update on the OWL v. KGH hearing, info on our Summer Membership Special, an interview with CELP’s new board member Steve Robinson, and more.


Remembering Virgil Seymour – Sixnit Leader

 

Remembering Virgil Seymour – Sixnit Leader
(1958-2016)

 

“We may have got pushed out of Canada.  We may have got pushed out of Kelly Hill.  We may have got pushed out of lower Inchelium. But we’re still by the River.  We still stay by the River.  Inchelium is right next to the River.

“Learning.  Connecting.  Understanding.  Education.  Outreach — are going to be the keys to connecting us back to the places and our people’s bones.

“People ask, ‘What do you want?’  I would like to be able to take care of our sacred places, our ancestors’ bones, and to have consultation for the resources that come out of there.”

Virgil Seymour, words from “One River, Ethics Matter” Gonzaga University, May 2014) 

On the summer solstice in Inchelium, 500 people from both sides of the international border gathered to say goodbye to Virgil Seymour.  Before leukemia took Virgil, in his short time as Arrow Lakes Facilitator, he did what he set out to do: “Learning.  Connecting.  Understanding.  Education.  Outreach.”

Virgil was a Sinixt member of the Colville Confederated Tribes.   While serving three, two-year terms as a tribal councilman for the district of Inchelium he was chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.  As an elected official Virgil focused on all issues related to the Columbia River, including the Columbia River Treaty, legacy pollution cleanup of the Columbia River and the litigation against mining giant, Teck Cominco.  Virgil was a passionate advocate for Sinixt issues and their fate in Canada.

As the Arrow Lakes Facilitator, Virgil worked with tribes, First Nations, and nonindigenous people who all shared an interest in the future of the Columbia River.   He was a “true diplomat” for the Sinixt People and, more broadly, for the Columbia River and salmon.

In March 215, Virgil and I traveled together for two days to Kelowna B.C. to meet with Anglican Archbishop John Privett and Roman Catholic Bishop John Corriveau about a “One River, Ethics Matter” conference in British Columbia.  During those two days, Virgil shared the stories of his boyhood on the Reservation, teenage border crossings, Kelly Hill, and history of the Sinixt Nation.

Even from Virgil’s bed at Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, struggling with induction chemotherapy and fevers, he was still focused on his work as Arrow Lakes Facilitator.  At one point Virgil handed his phone to connect me with people in Revelstoke.

IMG_8796From his hospital bed, Virgil talked repeatedly about the dugout canoes being launched that would converge at Kettle Falls, calling attention to the need to restore salmon.  Virgil had so hoped to be a paddler in the Sinixt canoe, and just beamed when he talked about the canoes.   While Virgil was able to return home to Inchelium “right next to the River,” he did not live to see the historic tribal gathering just upstream at Kettle Falls.  Four days after his death, the Sinixt canoe — with Virgil’s hand carved into it – converged with canoes from the five tribes of the Upper Columbia to celebrate hope of salmon’s return.  On that day, tribal leaders noted that Virgil, too, was there.

There are two messages that Virgil Seymour wanted us all to hear:

  • First Nations, tribes, and nonindigenous people need to put aside their differences and work together to restore the Columbia River and return salmon to waters now blocked by dams; and
  • the bones of the Sinixt ancestors exposed by the rise and fall of reservoir levels need to be protected, and the looting of Sinixt artifacts and sacred sites must stop.

Virgil was only 58 year old.  He lives on through his family and those whose lives he touched — in both Canada and the United States, and especially from Inchelium, through Kettle Falls and Arrow Lakes, to Revelstoke:  “Connecting.”

Virgil’s work carries on through the international effort to modernize the Columbia River Treaty based on the ethical principles of stewardship and justice.

For more:

Virgil Seymour:  The passing of a true diplomat.  Laura Stovel, The Revelstoke Current


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:


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

 


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

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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

 


Meet John Roskelley – CELP Board Member

Water advocate, legendary mountaineer, and author, John Roskelley has a long history of public service and joined the CELP board in the fall of 2014.  He has also served on the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Growth Management Hearings Board, and as a Spokane County Commissioner. John’s latest book is Paddling the Columbia: A guide to all 1,200 miles of our scenic and historical river.  John is especially interested in removing dams, and in restoring health to the Columbia River and its tributaries. In the photo to the left, he is fishing with son Jess.

John Roskelley near Mica Dam on Kinbasket Lake - Joyce Roskelley

John Roskelley near Mica Dam on Kinbasket Lake – Photo by Joyce Roskelley

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

I first became aware of CELP after following the group’s legal actions to protect in-stream flows on the Spokane River and during the relicensing of the Post Falls Dam. I also attended a Winter Waters event.

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

As a member of the Spokane Mountaineers and mountain climber for the past 50 years, it feels as though I have always been involved in some conservation activity or another. My first involvement in conservation work was in 1966 when I wrote my first letter asking Congress to create the North Cascades National Park. As I climbed throughout the world, I was always conscious of “leave no trace” and protecting the natural resources of the countries I visited. In 1986, I volunteered for a month to eliminate feral sheep off Santa Cruz Island for the Nature Conservancy. As a Spokane County Commissioner from 1995-2004, I was able to influence many environmental decisions in our county, including a more restrictive critical area ordinance and pass one of the better county comprehensive plans under GMA in the state. During my commissioner years and while on the Eastern Washington Growth Management Board, I was selected to sit on the first Salmon Recovery Funding Board; the Nature Conservancy Board; and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Board.

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

In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of protecting water in Washington is the blatant disregard for rules and regulations of the state by agricultural interests; the minor slaps on the wrist for industrial and municipality pollution; and the refusal of the DOE to enforce the law.

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

Water conservation can only be achieved through educating our youth. Environmental issues classes, like water conservation, should be a part of the K-12 curriculum to catch them early and often. We have to hope that with each generation more and more people will know better than to pollute or waste this precious resource.

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

If I could change one thing it would be the name. Better name recognition means more money; more money means more lawyers; more lawyers mean better compliance, whether through court orders or fear of being sued.

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

It’s a battle we have to win. There is no other option. We have to enlist everyone involved in water use and educate them to the seriousness of continuing along the path we’ve been on.

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

I support CELP because this environmental group has a hammer – litigation – and isn’t afraid to use it frequently. Sometimes there is no other option to overcoming political pandering; corporate greed; and just plain ignorance than a good old fashioned lawsuit.

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

Becoming involved with CELP is money and time well spent for their future and that of their kids and grandkids.

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

When I’m not volunteering for CELP, I’m finishing up the landscaping around our new home and planning my next project, which this summer is paddling the Snake River from source to mouth, a journey of 1100 miles. Like my paddle down the Columbia River, I plan to write another guide book despite the fact it’s a labor of love and not a lot of money.


June Edition of Washington Water Watch is Out!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.)