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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  

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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.)


State Department to include Ecosystem Function in Columbia River Treaty

United States moves closer to negotiating with Canada to modernize international River Treaty

Hanford Reach on the Columbia river

Hanford Reach on the Columbia River

Today Northwest conservation groups and the fishing community praised the U.S. State Department for including ecosystem function in the nation’s negotiation position as it prepares to negotiate the Columbia River Treaty with Canada.   The State Department’s decision came in a May 20 letter received on May 28 by members of the Northwest Congressional delegation, and is based on Regional Recommendations issued in December 2013 by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The State Department letter to the Northwest Congressional delegation states, “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.”

In the face of mounting regional concern about the need for the United States to move forward and negotiate with Canada, the State Department letter emphasizes that modernizing the river treaty is a priority for the nation:  “The Administration recognizes the significant economic and cultural role the Columbia River plays in the lives of your constituents in the Pacific Northwest, including numerous communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.  We assure you that the future of the Treaty is a priority, and internal deliberations are gaining momentum.”   The State Dept and the Council of Environmental Quality briefed the regional’s Senate staff on February 27 and May 5, and the House staff on May 27.

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.

“There is solid, broad-based support among Northwest states, Tribes, businesses and citizens to promptly begin formal talks with Canada to modernize the half-century-old Columbia River Treaty for tomorrow’s Northwest,” said Pat Ford, representing  Save Our wild Salmon.  “Conservationists and fishermen applaud the State Department for taking this needed step.”

“WaterWatch of Oregon commends the Obama Administration for taking the initial steps needed to get the region to the goals of abundant salmon runs, healthy river ecosystems and economic vitality for the many communities that depend on the Columbia River,” said John DeVoe, WaterWatch of Oregon’s Executive Director.

The basis for the State Department’s decision is “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024,” issued in December 2013.That recommendation includes restoring the ecosystem as a primary purpose of an updated treaty, co-equal to hydropower and flood control — a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management.  “The Regional Recommendation gives the Obama Administration a unique opportunity to improve the health of an iconic international river.  The northwest Congressional Delegation, and in particular, Senators Murray and Wyden, are to be commended for recognizing the need to seize the moment,” said Greg Haller, Conservation Director for the Pacific Rivers Council.

“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

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, based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter.

“Canada and the United States together have stewardship and justice responsibilities to manage the river as a single ecologic system,” said John Osborn, a Spokane physician and a coordinator of the Ethics & Treaty Project. “In a time of climate change the international effort to modernize the Columbia River Treaty can by summarized with just four words:  ‘One River, ethics matter.’”

The Columbia River Treaty went into effect in 1964.  In 2024 flood-risk responsibility, now shared by Canada and the U.S., shifts to the United States.  Canada would only provide assistance when the U.S. requests help.  Such a change will have major impacts in the U.S. on reservoir levels, hydropower production, water supply, irrigation, and salmon.  As written, the recommendation includes a public process to explore innovative ways to manage river flows and flood risk.

Center for Environmental Law & Policy  |  WaterWatch of Oregon

Pacific Rivers Council  |  Save Our wild Salmon  |  Sierra Club  |  Columbia Institute for Water Policy

Links –

 


Celebrate Water was a Huge Success!

Photo by Jon Anscher Photography

Photo by Jon Anscher Photography

Thanks to our sponsors and all who attended, Celebrate Water was a huge success! Thanks to our CLE presenters, Jean Melious and Patrick Williams, for educating us on current Supreme Court cases concerning Water Rights, Land Use, and Instream Flows. We also heard presentations from Rachael Paschal Osborn about the Columbia River Treaty, and from Adam Wicks-Arshack about his organization, Voyages of Rediscovery, and their work facilitating educational expeditions on the Columbia River. They have published a video, Treaty Talks, about their expedition up the Columbia River from the sea to the source in Canada.

D.R. Michel and Matt Wynne , representing UCUT

D.R. Michel and Matt Wynne , representing UCUT

We had the pleasure of honoring the Upper Columbia United Tribes with the Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award in recognition of their efforts towards restoring salmon and the Columbia River. By honoring UCUT, this award also recognizes and honors all 15 Tribes and 17 First Nations of the Columbia Basin for their leadership towards these goals in the United States and Canada respectively.

 

 

 

IMG_2330Thank you to our many sponsors for their support, including: Bob Anderson & Marilyn Heiman, Columbia Institute for Water Policy, UW School of Law – Native American Law Center, Carnegie Group of Thurston County, South Sound Group Sierra Club, Voyages of Rediscovery, Family of Ralph Johnson, Adidas Outdoor, Northwest Swan Conservation Cooperative, Ted Knight, Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Shannon Work, Howard Funke, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Fran & Bunny Wood, and the League of Women Voters of Washington

Here are more photos from the event – all photos are by Jon Anscher Photography.

Adam Wicks-Arshack from Voyages of Rediscovery, talking about their video, Treaty Talks

Adam Wicks-Arshack from Voyages of Rediscovery, talking about their video, Treaty Talks

IMG_2546

CELP Board member, Anne Johnson (right)

CELP Honorary Board member, Fran Wood (center) and Estella Leopold (right)

CELP Honorary Board members, Fran Wood (center) and Estella Leopold (right)

IMG_9869

CLE participants asking questions of presenter

Jean Melious presenting for CLE

Jean Melious presenting for CLE

CELP Board Chair John Osborn

CELP Board Chair John Osborn


Upper Columbia United Tribes to be honored for at Celebrate Water for their work to restore salmon to Upper Columbia River

UCUT logo15 Tribes and 17 First Nations press to modernize Columbia River Treaty;  await decision from the U.S. State Department

On May 21 Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) will honor Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) with the Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award.  Recognizing UCUT comes at an especially pivotal time in the history of our region:  the U.S. State Department is poised to decide whether to negotiate with Canada over the future of the Columbia River.  The honoring event will be held at Ivar’s Salmon House in Seattle as part of Celebrate Water! an annual event focusing on the future of water in Washington State, hosted by CELP.

The Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) is being honored with the Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award for their work in restoring the Upper Columbia River region, including their central role in restoring salmon above Grand Coulee Dam.  By honoring UCUT, this award also recognizes and honors all 15 tribes and 17 First Nations of the Columbia Basin for their leadership in restoring salmon and the Columbia River.  (view map of the Columbia Basin’s 15 tribes, 17 First Nations, and fish barriers)

In December 2013 federal agencies recommended to the State Department that the United States include restoring the ecosystem as a primary purpose of an updated Columbia River Treaty, along with hydropower and flood control, a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management. All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.

In the Upper Columbia, dams have devastated fisheries and profoundly damaged tribes and indeed the entire region.  The Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) provides a common voice for the Upper Columbia River region through the collaboration of five major area tribes:  the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. UCUT was formed to ensure a healthy future for the traditional territorial lands of Tribal ancestors and takes a proactive and collaborative approach to promoting Indian culture, fish, water, wildlife and habitat.

Celebrate Water! will be held at Ivar’s Salmon House in Seattle, WA on May 21, 2015 from 4:00-7:30pm. A one-credit Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop Water Rights, Land Use, Instream Flows:  Current Supreme Court Cases will be held from 4:00-5:00pm. The Celebrate Water reception will take place from 5:30-7:30pm and will include the honoring of UCUT. Tickets are $50 (reception), $30 (CLE) and $70 (CLE and reception).  More information is available at Celebrate Water!

About the Award

Ralph W. Johnson Award is given in honor of CELP’s founder, Professor Ralph W. Johnson.  Professor Johnson co-founded CELP (along with Rachael Paschal Osborn), founded Indian Law, advocated for indigenous people and justice in the salmon wars, and whose jurisprudence was foundational to the Boldt decision.   Past recipients of the award include the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Billy Frank Jr., on behalf of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Links –  

Contacts –


Drought Declared in Washington

Governor Inslee’s recent declaration of drought in 24 of Washington’s 62 watersheds has triggered a flurry of activity.   By law, drought is declared when a region’s water supply is at 75% of normal (or worse) and this water deficit will cause “hardship” to water uses and users.

04172015 drought areas - dept of ecology

Washington has experienced a fairly normal year for rain, but air temperatures over the winter were nearly 5 degrees F higher than normal, making the 2014-15 winter the warmest on record.  As a result, snow fall was scant.  Mountain snowpack is like a natural reservoir.  As accumulated snow melts over the summer, it percolates into groundwater and feeds the headwaters of streams.   Water will flow in streams during summer months, even with no rain, as a result of snowpack and groundwater reserves.  This year, snowpack is substantially less than normal for the Olympic, Cascade and Northern Rockies mountains, and as a consequence, we are facing a very dry summer season in Washington.

Western US Snowpack (4-1-15)

The biggest impact will be on fisheries.  Irrigated agriculture is also taking a hit, especially in the Yakima basin.  Municipal water supplies, especially for cities with big reservoirs (e.g., Tacoma, Seattle, Everett) appear to be in good shape.

In addition to physical aspects, drought has economic and political dimensions.  The Department of Ecology convenes a Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) to make recommendations about

drought activities.  The WSAC has requested a $9 million appropriation to drill emergency wells, expedite water transfers, and provide loan and grant funding to farmers.

In an attempt to alleviate instream flow depletion, Ecology and others are conducting “reverse auctions” in the Yakima, Walla Walla and Dungeness basins.

Western US Summer Streamflow Forecast (4-1-15)

Essentially the state offers to lease water rights from farmers who are willing to forego irrigation this summer.  The goal is to keep water in upper tributaries that provide habitat for endangered salmon species.

Ecology is also seeking to lease or purchase existing water rights to offset use of emergency wells in the lower Yakima Valley.  These wells were drilled in 1977 but may not be used except in drought circumstances.  Since 1977, lawsuits and a US Geological Survey study have established that virtually all groundwater in the Yakima basin feeds into the lower Yakima River.  Thus, pumping from emergency wells without mitigation would impair existing users and instream flow water rights.   The bottom line is that water in the Yakima River basin is over-allocated, and in water-short years, junior water rights (called “pro-ratables”) take a big hit.  Ecology will not authorize use of emergency wells without mitigation.

This raises public policy questions.  Should it be the responsibility of Ecology to find “mitigation water” for junior users during a drought?   Should Washington taxpayers underwrite the purchase of water for junior users?

Of particular concern, when junior users convert from annual to perennial crops, dramatically increasing the financial risk associated with drought, who bears that risk?  The water users, or the public?

The Legislature has also convened a “Joint Legislative Committee on Drought” which is meeting regularly to discuss drought actions.   Their meetings can be viewed on TVW.

The drought declaration may be extended to cover even more watersheds, and a statewide declaration is even possible.   Large Puget Sound municipalities are comfortable with full reservoirs, and do not want a drought declaration that would lead their customers to conserve (and thereby reduce revenues).   But, smaller purveyors and stream flows around the state will be hurting given the snowpack scenario.

Drought declarations can lead to much mischief in the public policy arena.  CELP will report on drought activities throughout the spring and summer months to assess how well agencies and the Legislature respond in protecting public resources, i.e., public waters and public funds.

 


Washington Water Watch – March 2015 Edition

Columbia River, Hanford Reach - no credit

Hanford Reach of Columbia River

Don’t miss our March edition of Washington Water Watch!

Click here to see the PDF version of our newsletter.

This month you’ll find articles about CELP’s recent victory in our Spokane River PCB challenge, the positive outcome of our Columbia River challenge, updates on other water issues and the Legislative session, an introduction to our new Development and Outreach Coordinator, and more.

If you aren’t already signed up to receive our monthly newsletter, sign up at the bottom of the page.