News Release: River advocates provide key studies for critical Spokane River decision

November 6, 2014

Contact:

  • Rachael Paschal Osborn  (Center for Environmental Law & Policy)  rosborn@celp.org

River advocates provide key studies for critical Spokane River decision

Public encouraged to wade in to stop “travesty” for Spokane River

 

Click here for how to comment.

Spokane – Today river advocates released Spokane River data they collected because the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) failed to do so in its proposed flow rule for the Spokane River.   The Ecology proposal would set flows for the Spokane River, including summertime low flows at 850 cubic feet per second (cfs).  River flows not protected eventually will be taken by Washington State and Idaho for out-of-stream water rights.   Deadline for public comment is Friday, November 7 at 5 pm.

“To think that Ecology never consulted any of the recreational interest groups before establishing this flow level is a travesty,” said Paul Delaney, a co-founder and board member of the Northwest Whitewater Association in Spokane who has been running the river for 35 years.  “We’ve had agency personnel on floats on the river so they knew how to reach us.

In setting flows, the Department of Ecology failed to consult with boaters who use the Spokane River.  American Whitewater undertook a survey asking Spokane River boaters about their flow preferences.  Preliminary findings show that all boaters prefer flows higher than 1000 cfs and most prefer flows in the range of 5000 cfs.   Flows less than 1000 cfs are considered unfavorable to boaters and can cause damage to some craft.

“Ecology’s failure to quantitatively evaluate Spokane River flows for recreation, despite the many scientific methods to do so, is unacceptable,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director of American Whitewater.

Ecology also failed to do basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge.  River advocates undertook their own photographic study.  Today, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) released an atlas of 37 key observation points of the Spokane River’s downriver reach, starting at the Monroe Street bridge in downtown Spokane.  The study documents five different flows ranging from 2,800 to 1,000 cfs.  Particularly instructive are comparing flows of 2500 cfs and 1000 cfs at 5 KOPs.

“Basic information that should have been used by the Department of Ecology isn’t there,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, executive director of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.   “Citizens have stepped forward to do the work the agency should have done, to try and save the Spokane River.”

“850 cfs is completely laughable, for boating and I presume fish would laugh — or cry if they do. I wonder if agency staff who came up with that flow number have seen the Devil’s Toenail at 850?” asked Delaney. “It’s essential that the user public be told and be given the opportunity to wade into this critical river decision.”

Citizens interested in the Spokane River can file comments with the Department of Ecology until 5 pm on Friday, November 7, 2014.   Click here to access the comment link.

Links –

Spokane River flows 2500-1000cfs

2500 cfs at Riverside State Park (suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher) versus 1000 cfs.  The Department of Ecology is proposing that the state only protect an even lower flow of 850 cfs.  For more side-by-side comparisons at key locations in the Spokane River, click here.