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Conservation Groups petition to end Enloe Dam Hydropower License

American Whitewater * Columbiana * Center for Environmental Law & Policy * Sierra Club

News Release – March 16, 2018

Contacts:

Salmon jumping, Similkameen River, Enloe dam. (Photo: Colton Miller, July 2014)

River advocacy groups filed a petition in federal court today against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) challenging its recent decision to extend construction deadlines on the Enloe Hydroelectric Project on the Similkameen River in north central Washington. Through the petition the groups seek to ensure FERC complies with clear requirements of the Federal Power Act and allows for meaningful public participation when making its decisions.

Despite strong local opposition, the Okanogan Public Utility District (OPUD) is currently seeking to re-energize Enloe Dam, which has sat dormant in the Similkameen River since 1958. Multiple economic analyses show that power generated by the project will cost far more than electricity from other sources, burdening ratepayers that live in one of the most economically disadvantaged counties in Washington. The PUD’s project would also divert the Similkameen River and dewater the culturally, ecologically and recreationally significant Similkameen (a.k.a “Coyote”) Falls downstream.

“As energy from wind and solar increase in the Pacific Northwest, and with an already abundant hydropower supply in the region, the power from Enloe isn’t necessary,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director with American Whitewater. Noting that the PUD recently entered into an agreement to purchase power from Wells Dam for as long as it needs the power, O’Keefe added, “the Similkameen River is a valuable resource to the region for recreation, scenic values, and fish and wildlife. We believe there’s more value in restoring the river to enhance these values.”

The OPUD project would divert and dewater the Similkameen River and Coyote Falls. (Simulation:  Dr. Doug Whittaker)

Coyote Falls, Enloe dam. The waterfalls is an increasingly important regional attraction because of an expanding local and regional trail system, and salmon can be seen swimming above the waterfalls to the base of the dam. (Photo:  Hydropower Reform Coalition)

“OPUD faces a great deal of uncertainty about whether the project will be economically sound,” said John Osborn, physician and coordinator of Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project. “The PUD is required to do an aesthetic flow study but still plans to wait until after the project is built, meaning it will not know how much water it will be able to divert to generate power until it has sunk tens of millions of dollars into designing and building the project. It’s more compelling to restore the river. Coyote Falls is an increasingly important regional attraction because of an expanding local and regional trail system, and salmon can be seen swimming above waterfalls to the base of the dam.”

The petition challenges FERC’s 2018 decision to grant the PUD additional time to begin construction on the Enloe project. The Federal Power Act allows FERC to extend construction deadlines just once, which it did for OPUD in 2015. In anticipation of missing its July 9, 2017 deadline, OPUD filed a request that FERC further delay the deadline by granting a “stay.” FERC granted the request, and denied conservation groups’ attempts to have a formal say in the matter. The groups contend that FERC violated the law when it granted the PUD additional time to begin construction.

“OPUD’s FERC license allows it to operate Enloe until 2063,” said Jere Gillespie of Columbiana. “To avoid red ink, OPUD will have no choice but to pass the costs along to the ratepayers into the next generation. What makes sense for the Similkameen and for ratepayers is to free the river of this cement plug and not throw good money after bad. A free flowing Similkameen will enhance economic growth for the local community.”

The groups note that they have been and remain willing to work with the PUD to develop a path forward for restoring the river that addresses ecological and cultural issues and the economic concern for ratepayers.

The petition was filed today in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which provides appellate review of the decisions by FERC. The petitioners are American Whitewater, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Columbiana, and Sierra Club. Andrew Hawley and Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center represent the Similkameen River advocates.

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“Hirst fix” bill bad for streams, salmon

Contact:

“Hirst fix” bill will harm streams, fish, and senior water users

Democratic majority fails to stand up to minority Republicans and protect rivers and salmon.

Seattle – The Washington Legislature today passed a sweeping permit-exempt well bill (SB 6091, the “Hirst fix”) that will have dire consequences for Washington’s endangered salmon and the people who depend on them. Most of our state’s rivers and streams are already imperiled due to low streamflows. It is well-established that pumping groundwater, including unregulated water withdrawals by “permit-exempt” wells, reduces streamflow. Rural development using permit-exempt wells has been happening at an accelerating pace, taking more and more water from streams and other senior users.

The 2016 Whatcom County v. Hirst decision was not new law. Hirst simply reaffirmed that new wells may not impair more senior water users, including instream flows. Special interests including the building industry and real estate agents pressured the Legislature to ignore the science and “fix” the decision so that rural sprawl could continue unimpeded. Today, Legislative Democrats gave in to that pressure. While this bill is styled as a “fix,” its real effect will be to allow more and more unmitigated water use. The results are predictable: lower streamflows, higher water temperatures, and fewer fish in the rivers.

Methods for mitigating water use and avoiding impacts on streamflows are well-established, and indeed are in use in several parts of the state. But the bill does not require mitigation; it provides for “watershed preservation and enhancement committees” which will develop projects to “offset water use by permit-exempt wells.” While well-intentioned, the committee process is unlikely to lead to fully mitigating water use. Worse yet, the bill fails to meaningfully limit water use or even to provide for metering of water use, so that we will never know how much water is actually being used. It is almost inevitable that senior users and rivers will be harmed.

Another provision of the bill is even more troubling: it calls for “pilot projects” allowing water to be taken from streams and mitigated using so-called “out-of-kind” mitigation (generally stream-related habitat projects) rather than actually protecting streamflows. This is especially egregious because this provision is not even aimed at Hirst, but at another decision holding that streamflows must be protected (Foster v. Ecology). Out of kind mitigation sets the stage for a huge water giveaway, with serious consequences to streams and fish.

“The best habitat in the world is worthless if there is not enough water in the streams,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for CELP. “As mitigation water becomes harder to find, it is inevitable that “out-of-kind” mitigation will become the path of least resistance. Ecology needs to live up to its obligation to protect instream resources by carefully monitoring the watershed committees and the “offset” schemes they develop.”

“We are disappointed in leadership in the Legislature that has allowed the capital budget to be held hostage to an issue that has nothing to do with the budget. This agreement will harm fish, senior water right holders, and tribes. We expected better” said Trish Rolfe, CELP’s Executive Director.

Links –

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Negotiating Columbia River Treaty to begin in early 2018

Conservation, fishing and faith groups applaud announcement

December 11, 2017  –  For Immediate Release

Contact:

  • Greg Haller, Conservation Director at Pacific Rivers   greg@pacificrivers.org
  • Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director at Save our Wild Salmon Coalition  joseph@wildsalmon.org

On December 7th the U.S. Department of State announced that formal negotiations with Canada over the fate of the fifty-three year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty will begin in early 2018.

A broad coalition of conservation, fishing and religious organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwest residents, hailed the announcement.

“Conservation and fishing groups are encouraged that the two countries are moving forward with Treaty negotiations. Modernizing the Treaty to improve the health of the river and communities on both sides of the border is not just an opportunity, but also a critical need given the challenges salmon face in the 21st century,” said Samantha (Sam) Mace of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition.

The Columbia River Treaty was originally ratified in 1964 to reduce the risk of floods in downstream cities like Portland, Oregon and to develop additional hydropower capacity. The Treaty accomplished these goals through the construction of three large storage reservoirs in British Columbia (Duncan, Mica and Keenleyside), which added 15.5 million acre-feet of storage capacity. Canada built Mica Dam larger than the Treaty required, adding another 5 million acre feet of non-Treaty storage for power production.

The Treaty also spurred the construction of Libby Dam in Montana, which added an additional 5 million acre feet flood storage space and hydropower capacity. All told, these projects doubled the storage capacity of the basin – and dramatically reduced the river’s natural spring flows. Notably, consideration of the health of the Columbia River and its fish and wildlife populations were not included in the original Treaty. Not only did the construction of the dams result in the displacement of people, economies and cultures as a result of permanently flooded lands, it had a profound effect on salmon and other fish and wildlife species – and the communities that rely on them – on both sides of the border.

While the Treaty has no formal end date, provisions that govern joint flood risk management operations are set to expire in 2024, which would have major ramifications for how reservoirs in the U.S. part of the basin are managed.  Additionally, U.S.-based utilities are keen to reduce the amount of power they deliver to Canada each year as required by the Treaty.

Conservation, fishing and faith organizations, on the other hand, view the pending negotiations as an opportunity to include “ecosystem-based function” – or health of the river – as a formal component of a modernized Treaty, on equal footing with flood risk management and hydropower production. Including ecosystem-based function would mean improved river flows to aid salmon’s out-migration to the ocean and improve water quality. It would also mean improved fish passage and reintroduction of salmon and steelhead into areas made inaccessible to salmon by dams in the U.S. and Canada.

Treaty modernization also creates an opportunity to improve the governance of the Treaty to allow a more transparent and inclusive process for negotiations and implementation.

“The Columbia River Treaty is often hailed as a model of transboundary river management. Adding ecosystem-based function and ensuring the governance of the river is transparent and inclusive will truly make the Treaty a model for international river management in the 21st Century”, said Greg Haller of Pacific Rivers. “We aim to prod both countries to achieve that goal.”

Links –



U.S. State Department:

Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty Regime

  • Media Note
  • Office of the Spokesperson
  • Washington, DC
  • December 7, 2017

The United States and Canada will begin negotiations to modernize the landmark Columbia River Treaty regime in early 2018. Certain provisions of the Treaty—a model of transboundary natural resource cooperation since 1964—are set to expire in 2024.

The Columbia River’s drainage basin is roughly the size of France and includes parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The Treaty’s flood risk and hydropower operations provide substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the border. The Treaty has also facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.

For further information, please email WHAPress@state.gov.

https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276354.htm


Watersheds to Watch: WRIA 29a – Wind River

by Elan Ebeling

WRIA 29a, known as the Wind watershed area, is located in southwestern Washington along the Columbia River, southwest of Mt. Adams. Although the Wind watershed was originally paired with the White Salmon watershed and collectively classified as WRIA 29, the initial planning unit disbanded due to disagreements in 2005. Subsequently, WRIA 29 was split into two separate sub-basin WRIAs, with WRIA 29a encompassing the western half including the Wind watershed and surrounding creeks and streams, and WRIA 29b containing the eastern White Salmon sub-basin area. The WRIA 29a Wind sub-basin includes the Wind and Little White Salmon Rivers, Trout, Panther, Brush, and Rock Creeks, as well as many small tributaries to the Columbia River. These waterways contain populations of Steelhead, Coho, Chum, Chinook, trout, and Pacific lamprey, five of which are listed under the ESA as endangered or threatened.

Although the area is relatively sparsely populated (the largest population centers are the cities of Stevenson and Carson at a combined population of under 4,000), according to the Department of Ecology’s 2012 Focus on Water Availability report WRIA 29 is among the most densely farmed basins in southwestern Washington. Furthermore, expected population increases particularly in the city of Stevenson combined with growing tourism from the burgeoning urban centers of Vancouver and Portland have put a strain on the region’s water resources.

In addition to the concerns of meeting water demands of a growing population, sufficient water is also needed to protect instream resources. The 2005 Watershed Management Plan for WRIA 29a identified high water temperatures on the Wind River and Little White Salmon River and high sediment deposits throughout the basin as specific impediments to threatened salmon runs. Climate models predict reduced snowpack throughout the region leading to lower summer flows and peak flows occurring earlier in the season, which will adversely affect vital fish habitat.

Although the 2005 plan acknowledged the necessity of an instream flow rule to safeguard threatened fish runs against the impacts climate change, it stated the need for more data to be collected on stream flow levels and recommended several studies and the placement of flow gauges. Over the next decade, sufficient data were accumulated via stream flow studies for the planning unit to recommend specific numbers for instream flow rulemaking on several waterways in the basin in the group’s 2015 Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP). In addition, the DIP also proposed the creation of several reservations to meet future water needs of local communities that would have priority over instream flow rules. Due to recent Washington State water case law, however (particularly the 2013 Swinomish v. Ecology decision), a different approach may be needed.  To protect instream flows, schemes for mitigation of new water use should be included in any new proposal.

The concerns of climate change and threatened fish runs are urgent, and conditions will only worsen without meaningful regulation. As a WRIA containing mid-Columbia River tributary rivers and streams, the Wind watershed is crucial for threatened Columbia River salmon and steelhead. CELP urges Ecology to take action to protect vital instream resources by beginning the rulemaking process for WRIA 29a.

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


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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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

 

 

 

 


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.


Winter Waters 2017: Honoring the Coeur d’Alene Tribe

Protecting Lake Coeur d’Alene – Water is Life

Winter Waters Celebration, March 10 – Honoring the Coeur d’Alene Tribe

When:  March 10 (Friday) 6:30 p.m. – 9:30

Where:  Spokane – historic Patsy Clark Mansion, 2208 W. 2nd Ave

What:  Honoring our heroes – also music, desserts and other small foods, wines

Tickets: $35 per person (purchase on-line or at the door)

To help sponsor the event or for more information, contact: John Osborn MD john@waterplanet.ws 509.939-1290

Links:

Sponsors: Honoring the Coeur d’Alene Tribe

Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Bishop William Sklystad  *  Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  *  Eymann Allison Hunter Jones P.S.  *  Linda Finney & W. Thomas Soeldner  *  John & Joyce Roskelley  *  EnviroScience  *  Kathy Dixon  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Rachael & John Osborn

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Honoring the Tribe

In the homeland of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, nearly a century of hard-rock mining in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District led to release of massive mining and smelting wastes into streams and rivers.  The extent of the pollution is truly staggering.  There would be no cleanup — no hope for protecting Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River from mining pollution — without the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.  The Tribe’s work to protect and restore their homeland is historic with enduring benefits for the Tribe and indeed for all life.  We wish to thank the Tribe for their assistance in providing background information for the following summary.

Tribal World View

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe were the original land managers in the Basin.  For the Tribe, all things living are interconnected.  Relationship with other life is based on kinship rather than human supremacy.  Resources are always to be used in a respectful and sustainable manner.  Decisions include how Tribal descendants will be affected seven generations into the future.

Homeland and natural resource overview

  • Historically 4 million acres: located in what is now the Idaho Panhandle from Montana to Washington, Lake Pend Oreille to the Clearwater breaks.
  • Lands and waters were pristine until the advent of white settlement in the mid-1800s.
  • Since then ecological conditions changed drastically: logging practices have eliminated old growth forests, clear-cut hillsides, changed species diversity, created a highly concentrated network of roads, and displaced wildlife species; agriculture has greatly increased agricultural runoff of pesticides, herbicides and nutrients; mining has poured hundreds of millions of tons of tailings, liquid chemicals and airborne contaminants into the Basin.

All of these practices derived wealth for the few, jobs for some, and left a legacy of negative natural resource impacts for all.

As a result of such impacts, the Tribe decided to take action and championed some major efforts to address the many problems facing their natural resource base (the center of their culture).

Efforts Undertaken:

  • EPA-related work: In the mid to late 1980’s, EPA began Superfund work in the Silver Valley. The Tribe immediately became involved in the cleanup –   at first informally but later through cooperative agreements with EPA. Local, regional and State politics hoped the cleanup would be contained to a $200 million cleanup within a small portion of the Basin (the 21-square-mile “box”).  Through the Tribe’s oversight and incessant urging of the EPA process, the original cleanup plan has been greatly increased and has led to three Records of Decisions (ROD’s 1, 2, and 3). To date EPA has spent over $600 million and still has yet to determine agency clean up actions for the lower 20 miles of the Coeur d’Alene River and associated lakes and wetlands, or what to do with Coeur d’Alene Lake.  The Tribe believes that several billion dollars of EPA cleanup is yet to come.
  • NRDA lawsuit and the Lake Case: In 1991, the Tribe filed two major lawsuits: Tribe v. Idaho (the Lake Case) and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) lawsuit (Tribe v. Gulf Resources et al.)  These lawsuits set the stage for what became many years of protracted litigation.  The NRD lawsuit sought $3 billion dollars for the injury to natural resources brought upon by the release of hazardous substances.  The Lake ownership case sought to reaffirm the Tribes ownership of the Lake so the Tribe could then proceed to address the myriad of environmental problems left unchecked by the State of Idaho.  Ultimately the Tribe prevailed in both lawsuits. The Tribe has been and continues to be on the Trustee Council responsible for the development and implementation of Restoration Plan to spend the $140 million brought about through the lawsuits.
  • Lake Management Plan Development and Implementation: The Lake is the center of the Tribe’s creation story. Their name translates to, “Those that are found here.” Although the Tribe would have wanted EPA to undertake the protection of the Lake, politics has not yet allowed this. So rather than have a Superfund cleanup for the Lake, the Tribe was left with little option but to agree to coordinate with the State of Idaho to develop and implement a Lake Management Plan (LMP) that would, in essence, be the “non-CERCLA”  approach to manage lake-bed metals contamination. After seven years of lackluster implementation (due to lack of funding and no political will to enact regulations) Tribal water quality data are indicating declining water quality.  This indicates the LMP is proving to be ineffective.  The Tribe has asked EPA to once again revisit their “deferred” decision of what they will do to protect the environment from future heavy-metals contamination.
  • Water Rights Litigation: 10 years ago the Tribe was forced by the State of Idaho to be a part of the north Idaho water rights adjudication process. This has been a battle to develop Tribal water claims.  The Tribe now faces a trial to prove entitlement to federally reserved water rights.
  • Avista Mitigation: After the most recent FERC relicensing process that ended in 2011, the Tribe received $100 million to conduct natural resource restoration efforts to mitigate for losses to Tribal resources as a result of Avista Corporation project operations. Tribal investments include; aquatic weed (milfoil) management, wetlands enhancement, cultural resources protection, and water quality monitoring.
  • Capacity Building: All during the last 25 years the Tribe continued to build internal technical capacity to tackle the complex and daunting environmental challenges in the Basin.  The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has a Natural Resources Department and a Lake Management Department numbering about 75 people.  Programs and major focus include but are not limited to:
    • Fisheries (stream restoration, native species protection, scientific data collection)
    • Wildlife (wildlife monitoring, habitat enhancement, big game management)
    • Air Quality
    • Water Resources (water quality standards development and enforcement, invasive species management and predictive lake modelling)
    • Hazardous Waste Management (restoration of injured resources, LMP implementation)
    • Shoreline Protection (shoreline debris management)
    • Forestry and Fire Management (forest health, fire prevention and suppression)
    • Pesticides Enforcement (education and enforcement)
    • Lands and Realty
    • Environmental Planning (coordination of environmental work on and off the Coeur d’Alene Reservation)
    • Recreation Management (including operation and management for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene and Camp Larsen).

In closing, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has taken on the leadership role as steward of their homeland’s natural elements.  In order to protect and restore the waters and lands, the Tribe has engage in a spectrum of efforts from litigation to cooperative agreements.   The Tribe’s unwavering dedication to it stewardship responsibilities stems from the creators’ gift of their Land and surrounding homeland.