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.
Previously the Public Affairs Manager and Policy Analyst for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 26 years, Steve Robinson has had a career working closely with tribes on public relations and natural resources, and joined the CELP Board in June 2016. He has also worked in corporate public affairs, served as Chief of Public Information and Public Affairs Director for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Advertising Manager for a major real estate company in Portland, Oregon and worked several years as a daily newspaper reporter.
What’s your first memory of being aware of water conservation, or conservation in general?
I have always known how precious and rare fresh water is. I first became aware of the need to conserve it when I was a boy, fishing on the Calapooia River, which runs through my birth town of Albany, Oregon. Even then, the water in the river would run low in the summer, though it still contained enough to accommodate the activities of a young boy who couldn’t afford a fishing pole. But who needed one? There were plenty of long sticks nearby and all one had to do was tie some fishing line to its end, put a hook and some weight on the other end of the line and dangle it in the water. I became committed to working on conservation during the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, as a journalism student at the University of Oregon in Eugene. That was a time of civil unrest, and there was no shortage of boycotts and protests on the UO campus. The message of the masses was to end the war in Vietnam, but also to take better care of the environment. It was a time that gave birth to Earth Day and it was the first time I became active with the Native American Tribes—as a member of the UO Indian Student Union and as a reporter for the University’s daily newspaper. When I commenced my journalism career as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Eastern Oregon, my career of writing about natural resources and the environment continued, and my efforts to support the Tribes continued also as I served as public relations manager for the Indian Festival of Arts. Ultimately, I left the life of a newspaper reporter to get into public relations. I moved to Olympia to take a job as an information officer for the State Department of Natural Resources. I was eventually promoted to Public Affairs Director of that agency. I served on a large number of boards and commissions in my seven years with DNR, including a term as president of the Washington State Information Council. While at DNR I became integrally familiar with the U.S. v. Washington (Boldt) Decision, and produced an article for the New York Times on it. When the Commissioner of Public Lands I served under left office I did a five year stint in corporate public relations. I was also introduced to self-employment, starting a public relations company through which I employed a dozen people. However, after five years as a “corporatier” a job came to my attention that I couldn’t resist: Public Affairs Director for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. Being a husband and father of two children by then, I wasn’t convinced that I really should move back to Olympia. But I decided to give it a shot. I met NWIFC Chairman Billy Frank, Jr. my first day on the job, and I was hooked. I worked for the Commission, serving the Treaty Indian Tribes in Western Washington for the next 26 years. I built a public relations program there, and over the years had golden opportunities to work with the Tribes here as well as indigenous governments and peoples across the country and beyond. My most memorable experience working for the Commission was, without a doubt, the opportunity to work with Billy. I was his “PR guy” and he became my life’s mentor. We worked and travelled together very extensively. I was the very fortunate fellow who got to be with him for thousands of hours, addressing environmental issues from the tribal perspective and standing up for treaty-protected rights near and far. My time with my spiritual brother Billy was the most entrancing and captivating time of my life. I learned so much from him that there are no words to describe it. After his passing on May 5, 2014, I have been dedicated to doing whatever I can to support the continuation and commemoration of his legacy. Among his many posthumous honors, the Nisqually Estuary has been named after him and he was a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a citizen of this country. I now associate closer than ever with his son, Willie, who serves on the Nisqually Tribal Council, which is also a great experience for me. I left the Commission in September of 2010 to start my own public relations business, SR Productions of Olympia. My company is dedicated to serving tribes and to doing all I can to protect and restore the natural heritage of this country.
How did you first become aware of/involved with CELP?
As Public Affairs Manager and as a Policy Analyst for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission I have had the honor of working with CELP on a number of critical environmental issues and programs. I have always considered CELP to be a truly great organization, and I have always wholeheartedly supported its purpose and objectives. After I started my business, I also had the opportunity to serve as CELP’s lobbyist in Olympia, and to work with Rachael Pasqual in that capacity. We did extensive work together to support good water quality and quantity legislation and to modify or defeat bad bills. I look forward to serving on the CELP board.
What do you wish other people knew about CELP or water conservation generally?
I want everyone to know that CELP is a Class A organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of our very precious water resources. I want people to know that fresh water is a threatened resource, one that is far rarer than most realize, and that it is absolutely fundamental to all life. I not only want people to know that each and every one of us depends on clean, fresh water for their very survival, but also that they can help protect it through conservation, prevention of pollution, support for more effective infrastructure and good education.
What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about water conservation?
I consider myself a naturalist. I also consider myself a pragmatist. That is not a contradiction. People need homes. They need food. They need wood and they need energy. But they also need a healthy ecosystem. If we continue to destroy the natural environment, nothing else will matter. To me that is not a so-called liberal or left wing philosophy; it is a very practical viewpoint. It is good stewardship—something I believe is everybody’s responsibility. Whenever there is a question about how to manage land, water or air I tend to believe the answer is provided to us by Mother Nature. She did just fine for thousands of years before Euro-Americans and other “newcomers” occupied (over-occupied) this country. Millions of indigenous people got along just fine also. It took just a few hundred years to change all that, and today we face water shortage and water pollution problems. We face extinction of many species, and we are facing climate change, ocean acidification and a host of other challenges. These are the result of poorly informed choices and the voracious appetite of greedy individuals and corporations. Too many people thought, and many still do, that natural resources are endless or that the scars they leave on the Earth are someone else’s problem, or that their property rights give them license to do as they please. They argue that such freedom is fundamental to a democratic society. I say that when the activities of these people and companies transgress against the rights of others to have a livable environment, property rights and the so-called right to block the natural flow of rivers, or pour poison into them, etc. is trumped.
What to do about water conservation? Conserve it! By all means available. That includes fair regulation, as well as the opportunity to conserve voluntarily. It means judicious use and the control of waste. It means storage in some incidences, rationing when necessary and education, education, education. I am a strong believer in the power of education. We need to constantly improve environmental education, in schools and in public. People need to learn why they should care and how it affects them. No matter what there will be detractors. But I believe most people, once educated, want to do the right thing. My experience as of late is that most people want to change their approach to water management, in a way that preserves the resource for fish and wildlife. We should support that changing attitude, in a very public way.
Recent studies indicate that voluntarism in environmental protection and natural resource management has not been effective, which might lead some to abandon the approach. Not me. I believe every avenue must be taken to achieve water conservation. In many ways voluntarism is integral to success. Working with Billy Frank, Jr., I learned long ago that “getting people to the table” to seek agreement on such issues can be very effective. I also learned that such collaborative approaches are most effective when the stakeholders realize it is far more to their benefit to cooperate than not. The symbolism we often used to make progress was to hold one hand out, ready to shake others’ hands in a very cooperative manner while hovering a club over their heads in the other hand. In other words, keep the option open for them to “do the right thing” but be ready, willing and able to force the issue when necessary.
When examining my philosophy about water conservation, it is important to understand that I am tribal, both in spirit and heritage, and that I subscribe to all the elements of the Tribal Water Principles (attached). Essentially, this document was developed collaboratively among all the Treaty Indian Tribes in Western Washington in the 1990’s to express their common positions on water management and water rights. I was honored to be included in the discussions that led to this document, which points out that the treaty tribes do inherently and legally retain the right to have sufficient water in streams and rivers to sustain the fisheries resource. In effect, the protection of instream flows is protected by treaties and are thus “the law of the land,” as described in the U.S. Constitution. As stated in principle 5: “Adequate quantity and quality of water is necessary to protect the culture of the tribes, including but not limited to spiritual needs, fishing, hunting, and gathering rights and practices.” The principles also address the fact that treaties protect a reserved tribal right to surface and groundwater sufficient to fulfill the purposes of the reservations as permanent, economically viable homelands, and that this right exists with a priority date no more recent than the date the reservation was established.
Why do you support CELP?
I have always found CELP to be highly supportive of tribal treaty rights, as well as courageous in its efforts to effect change in water management. These qualities equate to high environmental values and good stewardship.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming involved with CELP?
In my writings and in the work I’ve done with Billy Frank, Jr., and with the Tribes in the Northwest and beyond, I have often encouraged people to take action in ways that help improve water management and other critically important environmental efforts. In describing ways to get involved I have suggested joining organizations such as CELP. It is a very good way to provide a collective voice in such efforts. There is strength in numbers, especially when the strength is channeled in the progressive ways CELP has sponsored and endorsed. CELP, of course, stands for the Center for Environmental Law and Policy. I think it could also stand for Centering the Energies of Lots of People. CELP has been a leader in the effort to promote water conservation for a long time, and it is an organization which has excelled in helping many people focus their energies in that effort.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CELP?
As owner of SR Productions of Olympia I serve the communication interests of my tribal clients however they direct me to do so. Those efforts take the form of writing and distributing news releases, working with the news media, producing videos and publications ranging from brochures to curricula. I write columns, coordinate events, provide communications-related training and provide intergovernmental coordination and lobbying in the State Legislature and Congress as well as other governments and entities. In my “spare time” I hang out with my family, watch sports, go to the gym, spend time in the outdoors, do some travelling and write everything from poetry to novels.
Happy Earth Day from CELP! This month’s issue features an article on our What’s Upstream Campaign, updates on the Spokane River PCB cleanup and the Fox v. Skagit County decision, and info on GiveBIG and our upcoming Celebrate Water event. Plus, in honor of Earth Day, learn how you can prevent pollution of Washington’s rivers and streams in your own backyard!
This edition features water issues in the legislature, an update on Dungeness River litigation, and news about the WSU Water plan and Columbia River Treaty letter. Meet our new Development and Outreach Coordinator and learn about our upcoming events in Spokane and Idaho, our call for photos and stories and more.
All of us at the Center for Environmental Law & Policy would like to thank the Kalispel Tribe for their generous donation towards our work on the Columbia River Ethics and Treaty Project. The mission of the 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. The Ethics & Treaty Project is a joint project of CELP and Sierra Club, working with the 15 Tribes with natural resource authorities in the Columbia River Basin and also First Nations in the Basin.
In this issue, you’ll find articles about Ecology’s Rural Water Supply Workgroup, the success of CELP’s December 3rd CLE event, and our most recent job opening. You will also be introduced to our new Board Chair and Vice Chair, Daryl Williams and John Roskelley, enjoy the poetry of Tina Wynecoop, and more.
Starting in January, all of us at CELP are excited to welcome Daryl Williams and John Roskelley as CELP’s new Board Chair and Vice Chair, respectively. Daryl has been a member of our board since 2013, and John joined the board in late 2014.
Outside of his work for CELP, Daryl is currently serving as Executive Director of the Tulalip Energy Corporation and Environmental Liaison for the Natural Resources Division. Heis a member of the Tulalip Tribe, and has been on staff with the Tribe since 1977 in many capacities. Daryl also serves as President of the Adopt A Stream Foundation and Director of Qualco Energy. He was appointed to the Puget Sound Action Team by Governor Locke, and was a member of the National Tribal Environmental Council.
John is a water advocate, legendary mountaineer, author and has a long history of public service. He served on the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Growth Management Hearings Board, and as 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.
“To understand why I am an enthusiastic supporter of CELP, one only has to look at its mission statement, which reads in part, “to protect, preserve and restore Washington’s waters through education, policy reform, agency advocacy, and public interest litigation.” Almost every day we are reminded that we can no longer expect our elected representatives to protect and preserve the state’s water; that we can no longer depend on state agencies to enforce the Clean Water Act and state laws; and we can no longer look the other way as agriculture and industry continue wasting and abusing the state’s waters.
In a perfect world, CELP would not be necessary. We could depend on those in charge to assure our most precious resource is abundant and clean. But it has become painfully clear to me that common sense and best available science is seldom used by decision makers, as special interests lobby to pollute our waterways just a little bit more or divide dry creeks and rivers into smaller portions we no longer have.
I’m not a newbie to the waterways of Washington. My dad was the outdoor editor for the Chronicle/Spokesman Review and for many of my early years I fished almost every lake and reservoir in eastern Washington, hunted pheasants and ducks along countless streams, and camped and climbed mountains near alpine lakes drinking freely from the glacial creeks. Even as a youngster, it bothered me that behind every outboard engine at the docks was an oily sheen of rainbow-colored water. How could that not affect the fish? How was I supposed to swim in that?
When I was young there seemed to be endless quantities of clean, clear water, and because I spent my outdoor time in remote areas, I didn’t realize the extent and type of pollution that was building in our waterways. That changed with my first climbing expedition to Nepal. Here was centuries of abuse. Nepal’s rivers are their sewers, graveyards, and trash removers. It wasn’t until passing the last village on my way to climb a peak high in the Himalayas that the water looked and, yes, felt clean, although it always had to be boiled or treated. I can’t stand by and let that happen here.
I started looking at our waterways differently after multiple trips to Asia. The creeks and streams I once hunted in eastern Washington over the years changed. Agricultural methods “improved”, so that land once given over to wildlife habitat, is now tilled and farmed; creek beds and wetlands that were avoided are now rechanneled, plowed and destroyed; brush, water cress, and wildlife habitat that cleaned the water flowing through channels is now sprayed with herbicides and burned, leaving a runnel of water lying in a bed of mud. There isn’t a lake or stream in the Columbia Basin, for instance, that isn’t polluted with pesticides and herbicides from decades of farming practices.
There’s no sense in fouling our own nest, but we seem bent on doing so. There are laws to protect our waterways from development practices; industry abuse; agricultural destruction; and the pollution by stock animals. But those sworn to uphold them seldom enforce them. Polluted water, over allocated water rights, refusing to enforce the laws – these actions are unacceptable. CELP follows its mission and that includes litigation. This “hammer”, which is unique to environmental non-profits, forces those who are responsible – legislators, state agencies, local governments – to reevaluate and sometimes do what is right. CELP can turn this pollution train around and that’s why I’m on the CELP board.”
Melissa Bates is co-founder of Aqua Permanenté, a citizens group that works to protect water resources in the Kittitas Valley and statewide. In 2008, Aqua Permanenté petitioned the Department of Ecology to close the Upper Kittitas Valley to all new groundwater withdrawals, including permit-exempt wells. In 2011, that closure became reality, when the state adopted a rule prohibiting new, unmitigated wells in Upper Kittitas. The rule set a new standard for “water budget neutral” appropriations, and mitigation of water use to protect water users and the environment. Melissa and her colleagues have also been active in the Yakima Integrated Water Planning process, the Department of Ecology’s Rural Water Supply process, and generally sticking up for junior water right holders who are adversely affected by diminishing water supplies. Melissa and her family have been invaluable volunteers for CELP.
When asked about her passion for water conservation, Melissa said:
“Growing up in the Great Lakes area, I definitely took water for granted. We lived on the water, had a pool and most of our activities revolved around water sports (even when frozen – we did lots of ice skating!). When I came out to central Washington State in 1991 (by way of Alaska), I was surprised that a trip to the ‘swimming hole’ could be a 20 minute drive. About that same time I read Cadillac Desert which had a tremendous impact on me. Water is a part of the Public Trust, which includes the water required to support the entire ecosystem, not just what flows past the stream gauge. I have participated in many different water workgroups, and have come to believe that our state needs to better manage its water resources. I like working with CELP because CELP’s work is very thorough – they take the time to understand and evaluate pending policy decisions or legal challenges. The problem is that the State has never really done their job of protecting the water resource and we now are painted into a corner, yet Ecology is still unable to say no to the developers. Any remaining protections are continually being eroded away – often by the very agency tasked to defend them. This puts CELP in the position of trying to protect the instream water resource while Ecology puts up some of the biggest obstacles. No one defends our water resources like CELP, so CELP has to be tough because once the water has been taken for out-of-stream use; you rarely get it back instream! At the same time, CELP works on drafting policy in order to proactively create protections.”
In addition to her conservation activities, Melissa is a medical lab tech and has a small farm outside Cle Elum, WA. Her husband is an Eventing instructor (jumping, dressage and cross-country riding). They have 2 children, a son who is a senior at UW in biochemistry and physics and a daughter in middle school. They’ve raised sheep for meat and wool but have downsized the flock and now just have sheep for wool, and the sheep are grateful.
Check out the September edition of our newsletter, Washington Water Watch. You will find an article on our recent legal action to stop pollution from the Leavenworth Hatchery, Ecology’s new Reclaimed Water Rule, an update on our H2KNOW campaign, and information about a conference we are sponsoring about modernizing the Columbia River Treaty, “One River. Ethics Matter”. You will also find information about CELP’s upcoming events.
For 36 years, federal hatchery has been illegally polluting Icicle Creek
Tuesday September 29, 2015 – Today, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) and Wild Fish Conservancy announced they filed legal action to compel the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to clean-up the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery now polluting Icicle Creek.
FWS discharges a wide variety of pollutants into Icicle Creek from the federal hatchery located near Leavenworth, Washington, without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. An NPDES permit is required by the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and would place limits on pollutant discharges. The Hatchery’s permit expired in 1979, and for the past thirty-six years FWS has operated the hatchery in violation of the CWA. Despite repeated requests over many years to update the Hatchery’s operations, including a 60-day notice filed in July, federal officials have continued to operate the facility without obtaining a new permit.
Pollutants released from the Hatchery to Icicle Creek include disease control chemicals, pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, antibiotics, chemicals used for disinfection and other fish culture purposes, residual chemical reagents, salts, and chlorinated water. The excess phosphorus discharged by the Hatchery has caused violations of the applicable water quality criterion for pH in lower Icicle Creek. This phosphorus loading also contributes to violations of water quality standards in the Wenatchee River.
“The Clean Water Act is the main mechanism through which pollution of our waters is prevented, and the Hatchery is obligated to apply for a permit and to operate according to its conditions,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for CELP. “Filing a lawsuit is a last resort. However, a great deal of effort by many groups and individuals to get the Hatchery to obey the law has been unsuccessful. This litigation is aimed at ensuring that the federal agency carries out its work to augment salmon runs without harming Icicle Creek.”
“By not having a current NPDES permit, the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery has been in violation of the Clean Water Act for thirty five years,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Over the past fifteen years we have worked with local citizens and representatives of state, federal, and tribal agencies to try to get the Leavenworth Hatchery to comply with state and federal law to protect and restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act and to restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. It is discouraging to realize that yet again the Hatchery blatantly disregards its legal obligations and the needs of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. The saddest part of this is the public is unknowingly paying for it.”
The Leavenworth National Hatchery was constructed between 1939 and 1941 near Leavenworth, Washington, and is located on the banks of Icicle Creek approximately three miles from the river’s confluence with the Wenatchee River. The federal hatchery has a long history of violations of federal environmental laws. Despite repeated attempts, including litigation, the federal facility continues to be in violation of federal laws, notably the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
Wild Fish Conservancy and CELP are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR.
- Dan Von Seggern, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, 206.829-8299
- Contact: Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy, 425-788-1167
- Brian Knutsen, Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, 503-841-6515