Honoring Ethical Journalism

News Advisory – Feb 19, 2018

Three Journalists to be honored, thanked in Spokane

Karen Dorn Steele, Rich Landers, Julie Titone reported over decades on water, forests, wildlife habitats, and cleaning up pollution in the Upper Columbia River Basin

Contacts:

When:  March 2 (Friday) 6:30 p.m. – 9:30

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

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

Tickets: $35 per person. People are asked to RSVP. Tickets can be purchased at the door or on-line at CELP.org

Interviews with Karen Dorn Steele, Rich Landers, Julie Titone will be available prior to the March 2 honoring event.  Please send requests to john@waterplanet.ws

Why we honor journalism in the Upper Columbia River Region

Three retired journalists – Julie Titone, Rich Landers, and Karen Dorn Steele – who contributed significantly to our understanding of the world in which we live, will receive the Watershed Hero Award on March 2 at the Patsy Clark Mansion. In this time of attacks on journalism, we hope that you will attend and join us for Honoring Ethical Journalism.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of each of these heroes:

Karen Dorn Steele – Investigative Journalist

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is one of the world’s most polluted places and also a place of historic importance. Radioactive discharges into the air and groundwater have profound consequences, threatening the Columbia River region. The nationally acclaimed investigative reporting of Karen Dorn Steele opened our eyes to these threats.

Karen’s reporting connected us with the lives of our rural neighbors struggling with cancer deaths and other destructive impacts because of decisions to pollute the air, land, and water. More broadly, Karen’s reporting helped us to better recognize the importance of justice and stewardship in decisions about our region, including cleaning up massive mining and smelting pollution of the Upper Columbia River region.

Rich Landers – Outdoor Writer

Spokane is near the center of the Columbia River Basin, and Rich Landers brought the stories of the rivers, special places and outdoor pursuits into our homes and our lives.  Rich blazed a trail so that others could follow. He opened our eyes and our minds.

Conservation was a thread woven through Rich’s articles and photos. He was uniquely instrumental in the Upper Columbia River region in helping bring together hunters, anglers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and environmentalists to recognize their common interest in protecting clean, flowing rivers and habitat for fish and wildlife.

Julie Titone – Environmental Reporter

Through Julie Titone’s writing we learned about threats to our region’s waters and opportunities to engage in decisions to sustain and protect rivers and forests. She gave voice to the voiceless, including wildlife, rivers, and tribes struggling with a legacy of mining and smelting pollution.

In a time of historic transition and the consequent conflict over water and forests, Julie Titone’s reporting for the Columbia River Basin can best be described as “healing journalism”: respectful written dialogue allowing people to better understand issues and each other that empowered our regional community to recognize the finite limits of water and forests.

More about Honoring Journalism

Beginning in the 1980s, the Inland Northwest has undergone a series of historic transitions with the closing of frontiers – timber, mining, and now water – brought on by exploitation and limits of the natural world. Critical reporting on the environment is essential to sustaining and restoring the rivers and economies that depend on them in the Columbia Basin.

In the face of widespread corporate and foreign national meddling in our political discourse via social media and the proliferation of “fake news,” it is vital that the honorable work of journalists dedicated to truth and the common good be recognized and applauded.

Today as in every age, but particularly confronted as we are with the speed and quantity of what passes as news, we need reporters who not only are able to write a winsome phrase and paint a convincing verbal picture of our wildlife and landscapes, but who also love the earth and seek to support and honor its intricate web of life.

The work of these three journalists has contributed to a just and intelligent public expectation of what is acceptable in a human-nature ethic. Their journalism has held public and private officials to higher standards, and perhaps most importantly, these three reporters are a continuing example for others in the face of attacks on journalism and the environment.

Winter Waters Celebration is jointly hosted by Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group and CELP to recognize and honor individuals, tribes, and organizations who have contributed significantly to protecting and restoring the waters of the Upper Columbia River.  Winter Waters 2018 is the 10th annual honoring event.

 


Washington Water Watch: January 2018 Edition

In this issue, an article on the flawed “Hirst fix” recently passed by the WA State Legislature, an update on the Leavenworth Hatchery case, an in-depth article on the real impact of permit-exempt wells and the Hirst fix, the save the date for Winter Waters Event in March, and more.

Read the January 2018 issue of Washington Watch Watch here.


WA State Legislature Passes Flawed “Hirst Fix”

by Dan Von Seggern

Our state legislature began this year’s session by passing a bill to remove the 2016 Whatcom County v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (“Hirst”) decision’s protections for groundwater and streamflows. Hirst reaffirmed existing law and required that counties ensure water is both physically and legally available before granting building permits.   This common-sense rule provided a critical check on withdrawals of groundwater that affect streams and rivers, and harm fish habitat.  Unrestricted groundwater withdrawals can impair the rights of senior water holders, including users of existing wells who are now seeing their wells go dry.  Worse yet, the bill takes a step towards reversing the Foster v. Ecology decision, which requires that impacts to streams be mitigated with replacement water, rather than with non-water (“out-of-kind”) habitat restoration projects.

Concerned that having to show that water was actually available could slow development in rural areas, counties, the building industry, and property rights groups pressured the Legislature to find a “fix.” On January 18, the Legislature passed a bill (ESSB 6091) that allows counties to approve building permits that rely on permit-exempt wells.

  • In WRIAs where Ecology has adopted an instream flow rule that specifically addresses permit-exempt wells (for example, WRIA 18, the Dungeness River), compliance with the applicable rule is sufficient to show water availability for a building permit.
  • Where Ecology has adopted a rule that does not speak to permit-exempt wells, a plan to restore and enhance streamflows is to be generated. In WRIAs that created watershed plans under the 1998 Watershed Act, the bill requires that these plans be updated to include projects to “measure, protect, and enhance streamflows,”   and to offset impacts of permit-exempt wells.
  • If no watershed plan was previously developed, the bill directs formation of “watershed restoration and enhancement committees” composed of stakeholders. These committees are heavily weighted towards stakeholders who have an interest in developing water, rather than preserving the resource, and CELP is concerned that they would not have adequate incentives to truly restore and enhance the streamflows.
  • In watersheds where Ecology has not yet adopted an instream flow rule, an applicant need only show that water is physically present (in other words, there is no requirement to mitigate or compensate for water use).   This is the situation in about half the state’s watersheds, including some that are experiencing high growth pressures such as the Cowlitz River (WRIA 26).

ESSB 6091 stresses a “watershed restoration and enhancement” approach, rather than requiring that water use from permit-exempt wells be mitigated.  While the goal of protecting and enhancing streamflow is a worthy one, this bill has significant flaws and will not provide adequate protection for streams, fish, or people who rely on them.  Development is essentially unrestricted in most areas until the new plans are completed (2019 – 2021).  The damage to streams will likely be done before any regulations are established.

ESSB 6091 also undermines mitigation of future water use by authorizing “out-of-kind” mitigation projects (such as streambank restoration or addition of large woody debris to a river channel; by definition, such projects do not provide replacement water) to compensate for new water uses, rather than requiring replacement water to maintain streamflows.  CELP believes that out-of-kind projects will become the path of least resistance in compensating for water use, and streamflows will inevitably be impaired.  Even the best habitat is of little use if there is insufficient water in the stream.

CELP is especially disappointed that ESSB 6091 lacks any metering provision, or any other method to determine how much water is actually used. Without metering, compliance with the limits in RCW 90.44.050 or with any limits set by the respective watershed committees cannot be verified, and there will be no way to know whether the impact of permit-exempt wells is actually being “offset.”   Because quantities cannot be verified, water use under this scheme is in practice unlimited.  Simply relying on users not to exceed allowable limits is poor policy and could make much of the watershed protections plans meaningless.

ESSB 6091 requires Ecology to conduct a pilot study of “the overall feasibility” of metering groundwater withdrawals (including permit-exempt wells) in the Dungeness (WRIA 18) and Kittitas county (WRIA 39) areas.  But no pilot project is needed.  Ecology’s rules in these areas already require that new permit-exempt wells be metered, and metering has already proven feasible. Rather than directing Ecology to waste time and resources on these studies, a better approach would be to require metering on all new permit-exempt wells, so that the data needed to ensure that streamflow impacts are compensated for can be gathered.

Finally, ESSB 6091 establishes a legislative “task force” with the mission of identifying changes in law to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s 2015 Foster v. Ecology decision.  Foster held that water use that impairs an instream flow or other senior water right must be mitigated by providing substitute water at an appropriate place and time.  This provided important protections for salmon, which depend on water being present in streams at the time it is needed for migration, spawning, and rearing.  The bill authorizes a list of pilot projects that appear intended to demonstrate out-of-time, out-of -place, or out-of-kind mitigation.  CELP is concerned that this provision is designed to reach a preordained conclusion that out-of-kind mitigation is acceptable, and to pave the way for its broader use.  The consequences to Washington’s rivers and the fish that depend on them may be disastrous.


“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


Washington Water Watch: November Edition

In this issue, an article on recent victory in court on the Leavenworth Hatchery Clean Water Act Case, a story on CELP’s founding director, Rachael Osborn, being recognized by AWRA-WA with their award for Outstanding Contribution to Water Resources, a welcome to CELP’s newest staff member, Emma Kilkelly, information about our December CLE, and more.

Read the November edition of Washington Water Watch here.


Healing the Columbia River

News Advisory:   For an evening event in Seattle on September 28, 2017

Healing the Columbia River

An evening to discuss modernizing an international river Treaty

to sustain a river and its people in the 21st Century

To contact Speakers:

Event Contact:

Quotes:

“Tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada suffered profound damage and loss from Columbia and Snake River dams.  Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty is a critical opportunity for Canada and the United States to join together in acknowledging damage done, right historic wrongs, and commit to stewardship of this great river in the face of climate change.”     John Sirois, Upper Columbia United Tribes, Committee Coordinator

“The Columbia River Treaty is a template for taking without giving anything in return. Many people are unaware of the great harm caused to ecosystems and human culture in British Columbia. We are at a turning moment, one asking us to form a reciprocal relationship to heal the river.”  – Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, author, A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change

“Our faith teaches us that the Columbia River is not a machine to be used up and thrown away.  Instead it is a sacramental commons, a gift from God, valuable in itself as a living entity.  We can take fish from the River for the benefit of the people, especially Native communities, as long as we do not destroy that which sustains its life.  The well-being of the salmon, especially, is central to the health of the River and of our common home.”  – The Rev. John Rosenberg, ordained pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

“The Upper Columbia River has – and continues to be – the most impacted and least mitigated by dam-building in the Columbia River Basin. As Columbia River Treaty assessments continue, it is essential that sustainable natural-capital value be given serious consideration in actions that impact the river. We must take this opportunity to modernize the Columbia River Treaty for the benefit of all.”  D.R. Michel Upper Columbia United Tribes, Executive Director


What:  These four people will share their unique perspectives and stories about how the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty has impacted river communities and offer their insights into what an updated, modernized Columbia River Treaty must do to right historic wrongs — sustaining and restoring the Columbia River and the people who rely on the river in this time of climate change.

Fifty years ago, the United States and Canada ratified the Columbia River Treaty to jointly manage hydropower production and flood management.  Our region’s dam-building era, of which the Treaty is a cornerstone, has delivered important benefits to the Northwest – including Seattle.  But the Treaty has also caused catastrophic harm to the river’s health, and communities on both sides of the international border.

Where:  Seattle Mountaineers Building
7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA

When:  5:30 – reception with light appetizers and drinks; 6:30 – 8:30 three speakers and panel discussion/audience questions; event concludes at 9:00

Suggested donation $5 (donations to cover our costs are gratefully accepted)

RSVP:  healingthecolumbia.eventbrite.com

Additional Links:


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.


Washington Water Watch: June 2017 Edition

In this issue, find pictures of our recent Celebrate Water event, an update on the Spokane River rule, links to CELP’s Columbia River Treaty media and document library, and an opportunity to speak up for the Hanford Reach National Monument!

Read the June issue of Water Watch here.