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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

 

 

 

 


Honoring the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, protecting Coeur d’Alene Lake

News Advisory – March 6, 2017

Coeur d’Alene Tribe to be honored in Spokane for protecting Coeur d’Alene Lake

Mining, smelting wastes threaten Ancestral Homeland, Tribe Took Action

When: Friday evening, March 10, 2016, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Where: Spokane, Patsy Clark Mansion 2208 West 2nd Ave.

Who: Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Included will be Indigenous and Religious Leaders

Contacts & RSVP:

Tickets: $35 per person

Timeliness and relevance: Watershed Heroes

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe will receive the Watershed Hero Award because of the Tribe’s leadership in protecting Coeur d’Alene Lake, and restoring the basin’s waters contaminated with mining and smelting wastes. Coeur d’Alene Lake is much beloved and an economic engine for the Inland Northwest.

Through this honoring event, we hope to provide a broader, regional understanding and recognition not only for work the Tribe has undertaken in the past, but also of the Tribe’s continuing efforts to meet the formidable challenges needed to protect Lake Coeur d’Alene,

About the honoring event: “Winter Waters” is held annually in Spokane to celebrate work to restore the Upper Columbia River and honor people who have made a significant contribution to protecting water for the common good. The event is jointly hosted by Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, with the awards presented by Sierra Club.
Event Sponsors: Upper Columbia United Tribes * Bishop William Skylstad * 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

Links –

* * An interview with Tribal Chairman Allan is available upon request


Court: Leavenworth Federal Fish Hatchery violating Clean Water laws

Federal agencies needs to invest in hatchery upgrades, delayed 38 years

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,  503-841-6515

Today, the U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr. ruled that the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is unlawfully discharging pollutants into Icicle Creek without a Clean Water Act permit. The Hatchery, owned and funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been doing so since 1979.

“The Leavenworth Hatchery is dilapidated and old, with decades of deferred maintenance that needs serious upgrades,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the Hatchery, has prioritized maximizing production of the hatchery fish at the lowest cost possible while failing to fund projects needed to bring its pollution discharges to Icicle Creek into compliance with the Clean Water Act.”

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 violations of water quality standards in Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River

Since 1979, the Hatchery has been operating without a valid pollution permit. Judge Mendoza’s ruling confirms the violation of federal law. To comply with the judge’s ruling, the hatchery will need an updated pollution permit, called an “NPDES” permit, required by the federal Clean Water Act. Obtaining this permit and complying with its limits on pollutants will force the federal hatchery to undertake long-delayed upgrades, including wastewater treatment technology to protect Icicle Creek.

“This decision should be a wake-up call to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,” 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 laws to protect and restore native fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and to restore the integrity of the Icicle Creek ecosystem. The Service needs to invest in substantial improvements, including wastewater treatment and fish ponds.”

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 ruling makes clear that Hatchery improvements are required under the Clean Water Act, and are not a bargaining chip for IWG’s controversial proposals to raise dams and drain more water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness,” noted Von Seggern.

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.

Wild Fish Conservancy and CELP are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC of Portland, OR and Seattle, WA.

 

 


Water “CPR” needed for extremely low Spokane River

H2KNOWriverlow-1

News Release  – August 30, 2016

Public Water Alert

Inland Northwest residents encouraged to use Water CPR:

Conserve – Protect – Reuse

Despite cooler weather in forecast – Spokane River water levels are in the red

Contacts:

Spokane River 8-30-2016 741 cfs

Spokane River today, August 30, 10:30 a.m. – flows at 741 cubic feet per second. People’s Park – confluence of Hangman Creek and Spokane River.

Spokane – Today river advocates again called on their neighbors and Spokane City water managers to turn down the spigots, and turn off sprinklers. Spokane River flows dropped below 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) – the state-mandated minimum flow – more than a week ago, and have been running at or below 750 cfs most of this week.    

“Think about our river and aquifer as one,” said John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner with the statewide Center for Environmental Law & Policy.   “The water we use from the aquifer is water lost to the river for fish and wildlife habitat. Remember water CPR: conserve, protect, reuse. Water is our most important resource – let’s not waste it.”

PC16824waP

Spokane River 8-30-2016 741cfs

Watering alleys in the City of Spokane, wasting water. August 30, 2018. Meanwhile, the river is gasping for water.

People can take five actions that will conserve water and help the Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop over-watering law grass)
  2. Replace lawn with low-water plants
  3. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  4. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  5. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)

“Our water bills don’t begin to reflect the true cost of water,” said Tom Soeldner, retired Lutheran Pastor with the local Upper Columbia River Group, Sierra Club. “The real water bill for this region is being paid for by the Spokane River – the fish, wildlife, and people whose jobs depend on the river. The immediate action we can take to right this wrong is to stop using water unless it’s essential.”

The Inland Northwest is notable for its hot, dry summers. Water used by 600,000 people in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region comes from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer, which also supplies the Spokane River. Large municipal wells that are close to the River, such as the City of Spokane’s Well Electric facility, can have an immediate depleting impact on river flows.

“These low river flows are hard on fish,” said Sam Mace, who frequently fishes the river. “When the Spokane River flows are in the red, people who care about the river should be seeing red. We can do better, all of us, in using water wisely to protect the Spokane River.”

Spokane River flows are monitored at the USGS Monroe Street Gage, a measuring device located just downstream of the Monroe Street bridge. Interested parties can watch flow trends on the web or in the local newspaper.

The H2KNOW campaign is a community-based water conservation project to help the region recognize the intimate relationship between the Aquifer and Spokane River, and the need to conserve water to help protect the Spokane River.

Links –

 

 

 

 


Appeals Court: clean up Spokane River PCB pollution

News Release – August 17, 2016

Dept of Ecology must redo permit for Spokane County’s Wastewater Treatment Facility consistent with water quality laws

Contacts:

  • Rachael Paschal Osborn (Sierra Club) 509.954-5641 rdpaschal@earthlink.net
  • Dan Von Seggern (Center for Environmental Law & Policy) 206.829-8299 dvonseggern@celp.org

Spokane – On August 16, the Washington State Court of Appeals issued the third legal decision in favor of Spokane River advocates seeking to stop more PCBs from being added to the Spokane River from the Spokane County’s wastewater treatment facility. Three courts have now ruled that the Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) failed to do what the law requires: analyze whether the County’s discharge of PCBs has potential to violate state water quality standards, and if so, then impose appropriate limits to prevent such violations. The Appeals Court left intact an earlier ruling that the Spokane River Toxics Task Force is not an adequate or legal substitute for pollution control limits.

Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) filed the lawsuit against Ecology in 2011, and praised the Court’s ruling. “The Court decision is another important step to clean up PCBs polluting the Spokane River,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, with Sierra Club and CELP.

In rejecting the appeal by Ecology and Spokane County, the Appeals Court stands with earlier decisions that, because the 2011 permit lacks any limit on PCB discharges, it violates the Clean Water Act, and that other terms of the permit are vague and unenforceable. The Board remanded the permit back to Ecology to do over.

The Spokane River is among Washington State’s most contaminated river for PCBs. Exposure to PCBs through ingestion of Spokane River fish represents a public health hazard.  In 2008, the Washington State Department of Health issued fish consumption advisories, recommending limited or no consumption of fish from Lake Roosevelt and the Spokane River.

In 2011, Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group and CELP filed this suit and a companion lawsuit in federal court to compel Washington State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to uphold water quality laws for the Spokane River. The Spokane Tribe intervened in support of the federal lawsuit. In that case, a Seattle federal judge ruled that EPA was wrong not to require the Washington State to prepare a clean-up plan for Spokane River PCBs.

“The Clean Water Act requires the Department of Ecology to protect our public waters by evaluating a new facility’s potential for pollution and placing appropriate limits on discharges,” said Dan Von Seggern, staff attorney with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Here, the court affirmed that Ecology must evaluate and limit PCB discharges from Spokane County’s wastewater treatment facility. This ruling is an important step in reducing PCB pollution in the Spokane River.”

Sierra Club and CELP are represented by attorney Richard Smith of Smith & Lowney PLLC.

Links:

More on the 2013 ruling upheld by state courts

The state’s pollution court, the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) ruled that the Toxics Management Program in Ecology’s 2011 permit “is “confusing, vague, and lacks definition of key terms. More importantly, it lacks deadlines by which Spokane County is to undertake and/or complete actions to reduce PCBs in influent to the facility. It lacks mandatory language requiring Spokane County to actually undertake necessary actions to achieve reductions in PCBs in both influent and effluent. . . . [R]ather than requiring Spokane County to meet water quality standards, the [Toxics Management Program] only asks that the County take steps so that ‘in time the effluent does not contribute to PCBs in the Spokane River exceeding applicable water quality standards.’ . . . The Permit must require Spokane County to comply with water quality standards . . . .”” (Paragraph 13, p 23-24) This requirement will need to include compliance with the Spokane Tribe’s downstream water quality standards that were adopted by the Tribe and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003.

Additionally, the Board ruled that the Regional Toxics Task Force fails “to require that “goals be achieved by a specified date. Nor does [this permit condition] establish an objective standard against which its accomplishments can be measured . . . . [The Toxics Task Force permit condition] does not impose any restrictions on quantities, rates, and concentrations of PCBs being discharged from point sources into the Spokane River. While the Board finds that the creation of the Task Force is a positive step toward bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards for PCBs, it is uncertain that the Task Force will achieve any of its stated goals or achieve a measurable reduction in the discharge of PCBs. . . . Ecology is directed on remand to modify the [Toxics Task Force permit condition] to make clear that compliance with the Permit’s requirements take precedence over the work of the Task Force.”” (Paragraph 17, pp 26-27)

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Hot temperatures prompt calls to conserve water to help struggling Spokane River

kids news conference JO photo 8-5-2015Spokane River nears 1,000cfs; H2KNOW project launches public education effort

July 28, 2016

Contacts:

  • Tom Soeldner (Upper Columbia River Group, Sierra Club) waltsoe@gmail.com 509.270-6995
  • John Roskelley (Center for Environmental Law & Policy) john@johnroskelley.com (509) 954-5653
  • Paul Delaney (Northwest Whitewater Association spokanerafterguy@comcast.net, (509) 220-8018
  • Jerry White (Spokane Riverkeeper) jerry@cforjustice.org (509) 475-1228

Spokane – Today the H2KNOW campaign reminded the households and businesses in the Inland Northwest to conserve water to help the Spokane River. As daily temperatures rise, people and businesses are using more water, and Spokane River flows are dropping.

“Every time people turn on a faucet to water yards, or the City waters its golf courses, we harm the Spokane River,” said Tom Soeldner with the H2KNOW campaign and a retired Lutheran pastor. “Our message is: use water wisely, and know that you can help the Spokane River by conserving water.”

People can take five actions that will conserve water and help the Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop over-watering grass)
  2. Replace lawn with low-water plants
  3. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  4. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  5. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)

The Inland Northwest is notable for its hot, dry summers. Water used by 600,000 people in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region comes from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer, which also supplies the Spokane River. Water that would otherwise flow from the aquifer to the Spokane River is intercepted for human use contributing to low river flows. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreation opportunities, and businesses that benefit from the river. Large municipal wells that are close to the River, such as the City of Spokane’s Well Electric facility, can have an immediate depleting impact on river flows.

Spokane River flows are monitored at the USGS Monroe Street Gage, a measuring device located just downstream of the Monroe Street bridge. Interested parties can watch flow trends on the web or in the local newspaper.

H2KNOW organizers note that, while the region is not yet suffering a repeat of last summer’s sustained high temperatures and lack of rainfall that caused high water consumption, high temperatures are in the forecast and will prompt increased water use, resulting in a decrease to Spokane River flows.

The H2KNOW campaign is a community-based water conservation project hosted by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Sierra Club.

Links –


Cleaning up Spokane River PCB pollution

News Release – June 6, 2016

EPA challenged over failures to clean up Spokane River PCB pollution

Contact –

Last week in U.S. District Court, Spokane River advocates challenged as inadequate an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to remove the industrial pollutants known as PCBs from the Spokane River. They hope for a ruling that will end decades of foot-dragging and produce a reasonable, expeditious cleanup plan for the river.

“We are looking forward to showing Judge Barbara Rothstein how the EPA’s plan for PCBs in the Spokane River would frustrate and counter the letter and intent of the Clean Water Act,” said Richard Smith, Clean Water Act attorney representing Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP). “EPA’s excuses for not calling for a cleanup plan on a reasonable and expeditious timeline are just that – excuses, and we think the judge will see that.”

The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires that polluted waters be cleaned up so that they are fishable and swimmable. Forty-four years later, the Spokane River still does not have a cleanup plan for PCBs.

On April 5 the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal filed by Spokane County, Kaiser Aluminum Washington, LLC, and the State of Washington Department of Ecology (State Ecology). The Ninth Circuit decision lets stand the U.S. District Court’s ruling that the EPA cannot substitute the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force, a polluter-dominated committee process, for a cleanup plan with enforceable targets for Spokane River PCBs.

This case is important because the heavily used Spokane River flows through the second-most populated area in Washington State and is contaminated with PCBs, is an example of the failure of state and federal agencies to fulfill trust duties to protect the state’s waters, and involves the first-ever water quality standards based on fish consumption by humans in Washington State (adopted by the Spokane Tribe of Indians).

“River polluters control the Toxics Task Force that is using a ‘consensus process’ to write a plan to dodge the clean water law,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn of Sierra Club and CELP. “Does anyone seriously believe the polluters will impose expensive treatment requirements on themselves? This is why EPA must step in and prepare a plan with binding cleanup targets that actually protects the Spokane River.”

More about PCBs, and the legal case to clean up the Spokane River

The Spokane River is heavily polluted with PCBs. The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires that polluted waters be cleaned up so that they are fishable and swimmable. Forty-four years later, in 2016, the Spokane River still does not have the cleanup plan for PCBs required by the Clean Water Act.

PCBs are a group of industrial compounds associated with liver dysfunction and cancer, and are now banned in the United States.  Washington State formally recognizes that the Spokane River is impaired for PCBs.  When a river is listed for PCBs, the federal Clean Water Act requires binding cleanup targets before issuing any permits that would add more PCBs to the Spokane River.  Such a cleanup plan has never been completed for the Spokane River, but state and federal agencies have issued pollution permits anyway, failing to include numeric limits. Ecology is due to renew those permits this year, but the agency is not expected to include numeric limits for toxics.

In 2011, the Washington Department of Ecology abandoned efforts to adopt a PCB cleanup plan, largely because of political opposition by Spokane River polluters, who would be required to reduce PCBs in effluent by up to 99% to meet both Washington State and Spokane Tribe water quality standards. These polluters include Inland Empire Paper, Kaiser, and the Liberty Lake, Spokane County, and City of Spokane sewage treatment plants. Instead, Ecology formed the Spokane River Toxics Task Force and required the polluters to participate, but also gave them control over the goals and activities of the Task Force.

Subsequently EPA issued discharge permits to three Idaho dischargers – the City of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden Water & Sewer District – also not requiring PCB limits and also requiring participation in the Toxics Task Force.

Sierra Club & CELP filed a citizen lawsuit against EPA in 2011. The Spokane Tribe of Indians intervened in support of the citizen lawsuit, and the Department of Ecology, Spokane County and Kaiser intervened to defend EPA. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled in March 2015 that EPA’s failure to require a clean-up plan was an abuse of discretion and ordered EPA to submit a plan to the Court by July 2015.

EPA, Ecology, Kaiser, and Spokane County appealed the ruling, but EPA withdrew its appeal and submitted a document (which fails to require a cleanup plan) to the District Court. On April 5, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Ecology-County-Kaiser appeal in a one-paragraph decision. This means that a CELP-Sierra Club challenge to the EPA’s “non-cleanup plan” document will now move forward in District Court.

Last week, Spokane River advocates filed their objection with the federal judge, challenging EPA’s proposal. Meanwhile, Ecology is preparing to issue updated pollution permits to river dischargers in Washington State. The City of Spokane sued Monsanto Corporation because of the river’s PCB pollution.

Sierra Club and CELP are represented by Richard Smith and Marc Zemel of Smith & Lowney, a Seattle firm specializing in Clean Water Act litigation.  The Spokane Tribe of Indians is represented by Ted Knight.

Links –

 

# # #


Prof. Bill Rodgers and Rep. Derek Stanford to be honored

News Release – Event on June 8

National leader in environmental law, UW’s Bill Rodgers, and Rep. Derek Stanford to be honored for water protection

 

UW Law Professor honored for lifetime’s work as legal scholar, willingness to challenge polluters, protect environment and Indians’ fishing rights

 

Rep. Stanford honored for leadership in Legislature to protect public’s waters in Washington State

 

Contact –

  • Trish Rolfe, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, trolfe@celp.org, 206.829-8299
Rep. Derek Stanford who has provided leadership to protect the public's waters in Washington State.

Rep. Derek Stanford – whose leadership has been essential to protecting the public’s waters in Washington State.

Prof. Bill Rodgers - a giant in environmental law scholarship and attorney for the environment and Indian rights.

Prof. Bill Rodgers – a giant in environmental law scholarship and attorney for the environment and Indian rights.

Seattle – On June 8th in Seattle, a national legal scholar and a state legislative leader, will be honored: UW law professor William “Bill” Rodgers and Rep. Derek Stanford.

“We need to pause and take the time to thank and honor our heroes,” said Trish Rolfe, director of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “In this time of climate change, increasing pressure on our rivers and drinking-water aquifers, and rush to exploit the public’s waters, Professor Rodgers and Rep. Stanford deserve thanks and recognition for their public service.”

Professor Rodgers will receive the Ralph Johnson Water Hero Award. Rep. Stanford will receive the Washington Water Policy Award. The awards are presented by the State of Washington’s water watchdog, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

The Water Hero Award is given in honor of CELP’s founder, Professor Ralph W. Johnson, a law professor at University of Washington Law School who established the legal discipline of Indian Law and advanced legal understandings of protections for public waters. Past recipients of the award include Billy Frank Jr., (a close friend of Prof. Johnson) on behalf of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; and Upper Columbia United Tribes (recognizing all Tribes and First Nations working to modernize the Columbia River Treaty).

The Washington Water Policy Award, given for the first time, goes to an elected official or policy maker that shows outstanding contributions to sustainable water policy in Washington. The first to receive this award is Rep. Stanford for his work during the last two years in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and as vice chair for the Joint Committee, Water Supply During Drought, to help direct state water policy to a more sustainable path.

Honoring Event details

  • Event: Celebrate Water! hosted by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy – Washington’s water watchdog
  • When: June 8 (Wednesday) 5:30 – 7:30.

Note: if you are interested in the Columbia River BiOp decision, a pre-reception “CLE” will be held at 4:00 same venue on that recent decision.   Presenter: Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice

  • Where: Ivar’s Salmon House 401 NE Northlake Way, Seattle
  • Tickets: can be purchased on-line or at the door. Reception – $50; CLE – $30; both – $70

More about Professor Bill Rodgers

  • Eye-witness and participant in writing nation’s environmental laws that ushered in the “environmental revolution” starting the late 1960s, 1970s;
  • lawyer and witness in the “smelter cases,” including ASARCO’s smelter in Tacoma and the arsenic pollution of Tacoma and Puget Sound;
  • lawyer for Indian activists, including after the takeover of the BIA office in Washington,D.C.;
  • worked with attorneys, among them UW law professor Ralph W. Johnson, to protect Indian fishing rights (the Boldt decision), representing the Puyallup Tribe’s treaty rights to salmon; and
  • author of major treatises on environmental law, an academic who has also worked to hold judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, accountable for their decisions.

Prof. Rodgers is available for interviews.  On a personal note, Bill Rodgers’ daughter, Andrea Rodgers, is a leading environmental attorney representing children challenging the State of Washington to address climate change. (more)

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Governor Inslee: Spokane River needs you!

News Release
Tuesday, May 31

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Gov. Inslee has 45 days to decide whether to protect Spokane River flows

Citizens ask Gov. to reopen agency decision that ignored jobs, tourism, boaters, scenery

 

Spokane – Advocates for the Spokane River are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to grant their petition for protecting all instream values of the Spokane River, including recreational boating opportunities. This is the next step in the citizens’ quest to protect Spokane River flows. A petition was filed in February with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and rejected by the agency in April.

The groups are asking Gov. Inslee to protect jobs, the Spokane River, uphold the law, and avoid embroiling the state in more litigation regarding the Spokane River. Citizens’ letter to the Governor reads, in part:

We would like to make it clear that our goal in bringing this appeal to you is to reach an amicable agreement with Ecology to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow rule in a manner that takes into account and protects aesthetic and recreational values, while also protecting fish habitat. While we are simultaneously appealing Ecology’s decision to Thurston County Superior Court, we are required to do so to preserve our appeal rights pursuant to the Washington Administrative Procedure Act. Our hope is that you will be willing to resolve the issues raised in our appeal without the need for protracted litigation. We are asking that you direct the Department of Ecology to re-open the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule and reassess the minimum summer flows that are needed to protect and preserve recreational and aesthetic uses of the river. Because the Petitioners and Ecology agree that higher flows than those protected in the existing rule will not harm the fish, we believe that a mutually agreeable resolution is possible that is best for the Spokane River.

The Spokane River is a beloved urban river that flows through the second-largest city in Washington State, including spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge. Conservationists seek a minimum summertime flow of 1,800 – 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to support fisheries and recreation, and protect higher flows for recreation when available. Ecology set river flows at 850 cfs, far below typical summer low flows. This rule could effectively make every year a drought year for the Spokane River.

Nearly 2,000 comments, including boater surveys and scenic photographs, were submitted to Ecology during the public comment period on the draft rule. The state agency ignored overwhelming public support for protecting Spokane River flows and adopted low river flows that jeopardize the Spokane River and public uses.

The case has statewide significance because Ecology excluded recreation and outdoor recreation-based jobs from its analysis in setting river flows. Annual economic contributions of outdoor recreation to Washington’s economy are about $20.5 billion, supporting nearly 200,000 jobs. Washington’s natural resources should be managed to support outdoor recreation.

The governor has 45 days to respond to the citizens’ petition. Petitioners are Sierra Club, CELP, and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Andrea Rodgers (Western Environmental Law Center) and Dan Von Seggern (Center for Environmental Law & Policy).

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“We are asking Gov. Inslee for leadership to protect jobs and the people’s river,” said John Roskelley, kayaker, author, and vice president of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Last summer the whole community lived through drought and witnessed the Spokane River reduced to a trickle amid boulder fields. The state has a trust responsibility for our river, and an obligation to protect the state’s outdoor recreation economy.”

“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 that also support outdoor recreation and jobs.”

“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows sets a dangerous precedent for Washington State’s rivers,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater “Our state’s river face many demands but ultimately we have a collective responsibility for the stewardship and protection of our state’s rivers, and Department of Ecology must protect the diversity of beneficial uses our rivers provide including recreation.”

“Gov. Inslee has expressed his commitment to encouraging outdoor recreation in the state of Washington and this petition to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule gives him the opportunity to do just that,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We are asking the governor to ensure that recreational uses of the river are not only considered, but protected, as is required by law. The ball is in Gov. Inslee’s court to do what is right for the river so future generations of Washingtonians can recreate on the river for years to come.”

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