Canadian sisters and EWU professor honored at CELP, Sierra Club event in Spokane

On February 27 CELP and Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group hosted Spokane’s 8th annual Winter Waters Celebration at the Patsy Clark Mansion.  It’s a great evening at a fabulous historic mansion.  We also honor people who have made a significant contribution to protecting water for the common good.  The 2015 awards honor the Spicer sisters, Crystal and Janet, of the Arrow Lakes region in Canada and fisheries scientist and professor Dr. Allan Scholz of Eastern Washington University. (Honorees are selected by local leaders with Sierra Club.)

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About Dr. Allan Scholz:   fisheries scientist and professor at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA, Dr. Scholz is a pivotal and historic figure in restoring fisheries in the Upper Columbia River region.  As a young man doing fisheries research, Allan Scholz helped carry out the basic research to determine how adult salmon return reliably to natal streams to spawn, how young salmon know when to migrate to the ocean and then adjust from freshwater to saltwater.

Many of the fishery biologists in Columbia Basin were trained by Dr. Scholz at Eastern Washington University.  His work was also foundational for the establishment of an institution at the forefront of restoring salmon above Grand Coulee Dam:  Upper Columbia United Tribes.  Dr. Scholz also has been involved with restoring sturgeon on the Kootenai and Columbia Rivers as well as other resident fisheries.

Crystal & Janet SpicerAbout the Spicer sisters, Crystal and Janet:   the dam-building era in the Columbia Basin forced thousands of people from their homes, permanently flooding river valleys to provide floodplain real-estate protection mostly for Portland, Oregon.  Impacts of dams and reservoirs on people – indigenous and non-indigenous – and wildlife were devastating.  As a result of the Treaty dams, 2300 people were flooded from their homes, many at Arrow Lakes.  The Spicer family struggled with the aftermath of the Treaty decisions near Nakusp, BC.   After watching the struggles of their parents to hold onto their family home and farm, these two sisters, Crystal and Janet, motivated and oversaw the formation of the Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition to seek changes in the Columbia River Treaty to protect and restore the Upper Columbia River.  At the heart of their advocacy are the “non-human” elements of the upper basin — the river, the fish and animal species, the plants, trees, songbirds, insects . . . all deeply impacted by the storage reservoirs.

Historic Contexts for Winter Waters 2015 

(1)  Returning salmon home to the Upper Columbia.  Feb. 27 is the close of the public comment period in the United States for Phase 1 of a proposal by Upper Columbia United Tribes to return salmon above Grand Coulee Dam to the Upper Columbia.  The United States, with Canada’s approval, built the massive Grand Coulee dam without fish ladders — blocking millions of salmon that returned each year to vast spawning areas in both nations – salmon that had sustained indigenous people from time immemorial.

(2)  Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.  Canada and the United States are actively discussing efforts to modernize the Columbia River Treaty.  Within the Basin, public support is growing to add “ecosystem function” as a third treaty purpose co-equal with hydropower generation and flood risk management.  In a time of climate change and melting glaciers, the goal is for Canada and the United States to manage the Columbia River as “one river” and less as a machine.  This includes restoring flooded valleys of interior B.C., and providing safe passage for salmon and other fish now blocked by dams so they can return home to Canadian waters.

(3)   Sinixt Nation, Arrow Lakes.   The award presentation for the Spicer sisters will be made by Virgil Seymour of the Sinixt Nation.  The Sinixt Nation, historically centered in the Arrow Lakes reach of the Columbia River, was declared extinct by Canada during Treaty negotiations with the U.S. in the 1950s, clearing the way to build the dam that flooded the Arrow Lakes valley.

We especially thank our sponsors for this event:   Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  W. Thomas Soeldner  *  Jim Hallett & Peggy O’Connell  *  Chris & Michelle Kopczynski  *  Smith & Lowney LLC  *  John & Joyce Roskelley  *  Eymann Allison Hunter Jones, P.S.  *  Fred Christ Painting  *  Jeff Lambert  *  Paul Quinnett / QPR Institute  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy