Monthly Archives: October 2015

Profile of Melissa Bates – CELP Supporter and Volunteer

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 gaugeI 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.

Henry, one of Melissa's rams - Photo by Melissa Bates

Alpine Aries Sir Henry, one of Melissa’s rams – Photo by Melissa Bates

Portland Conference on Ethics, Columbia River Treaty

News Advisory:  October 13

Regional river ethics conference to focus on Portland’s floodplain development, international impacts, modernizing the Columbia River Treaty


  • Steve Kolmes, PhD, University of Portland (503) 943-7291
  • Jim Heffernan, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (503) 731-1303
  • John Osborn MD, Ethics & Treaty Project (509) 939-1290


  • When: October 24, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Where: University of Portland – Buckley Center Auditorium
  • Cost: Free and open to the public
  • RSVP: Belgin Inan  503.943-8342
  • RSVP deadline: October 16


One month after Pope Francis spoke to Congress, the people of the Portland region are invited to join in a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River Treaty that governs water management in the river basin. The conference will open with comments from Bishop William Skylstad on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. Next, tribal elders and others impacted directly by the dam-building era will describe epic losses suffered in the Columbia Basin.  The conference will conclude with a panel discussion about the important opportunity to modernize the Columbia River Treaty through upcoming negotiations between Canada and the United States.

Portland’s conference location is near the site of the 1948 Vanport Flood. While power development objectives initiated discussion with Canada in 1944 about a water treaty, the Vanport Flood accelerated the technical studies that led to the Columbia River Treaty. Edward Washington survived the Vanport flood and will recall what happened to his family and community on that terrible day. Crystal Spicer, from interior British Columbia, will describe the Treaty dams’ impacts on her family, neighbors, and the Upper Columbia, including the forced relocation of 2,300 people from family and ancestral lands that were flooded under the Treaty. The conference will explore various measures that can be used to right historic wrongs resulting from the dam-building era such as restoring salmon to historical spawning areas now blocked by dams, and improving floodplain management in the face of climate change.

Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, the “One River, Ethics Matter” conference series explores the moral dimensions and impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations, salmon and the river. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference in Spokane in May 2014, where religious leaders issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. The October 24th conference is the second conference in the series and focuses on flood risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship.

International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change.  “One River, Ethics Matter” uses the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and builds upon the tools used by international water forums to help establish a water ethic as a foundation for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.


Hosted by the University of Portland



McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics  *  Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission  *  Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition  *  Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland  *  Okanagan Nation Alliance  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon  *  Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation  *  Pacific Rivers Council  *  WaterWatch of Oregon  *  Citizens for a Clean Columbia  *  Columbia Riverkeeper  *  Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society  *  Sweo Chair in Engineering  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  The Roskelley Family  *  Molter Chair in Science   *  Save Our Wild Salmon  *  Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club  *  Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter  *  ATRIA  *  Francis Maltby  *  Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club  *  Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Washington Supreme Court protects water flowing in streams

Decision part of growing concern about Department of Ecology mismanaging state’s waters in face of climate change

Deschutes River - Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Deschutes River – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

On October 8th, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Ecology’s approval of the City of Yelm’s new water right because the new right would impair existing instream flows in local streams and the Nisqually River. The Court concluded that the state agency’s decision was unlawful because Ecology improperly used a narrow exception in the water code to issue the right, and because Ecology relied on out-of-kind mitigation measures to justify issuance of the water right.   The legal action brought by Sara Foster, a small farm owner in the City of Yelm, was filed in 2011 because of concerns that overpumping groundwater would adversely impact local waterways. This latest decision is set in the context of growing criticism about the Department of Ecology’s mismanagement of the state’s waters through historic over-allocation of water rights and in the face of climate change.

“The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the state’s responsibility to protect instream flows,” said Patrick Williams, attorney for Sara Foster. “The decision makes it clear that Ecology must abide by state water laws when approving new water rights.”

The Foster decision means that the Department of Ecology, which is responsible for managing the state’s waters, cannot issue new water rights that will permanently deplete protected flows in rivers.

“I’m thrilled with the decision because it means the water levels in streams in rivers I, and others, enjoy so much will be protected now and in the future,” said Sara Foster, plaintiff in the case.

The Foster decision reaffirms a 2013 Supreme Court decision in a case brought by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to protect stream flows in the Skagit River basin. In Swinomish, the Court held that Ecology could not use the narrow water code exemption permanently impair existing instream flows through water reservations for future use. Pursuant to today’s decision, Ecology cannot issue individual water rights that would impact instream flows. Together, Swinomish and Foster underscore that Ecology cannot continue to deplete river flows to meet future water demand.

“It is time for the state to look at water efficiency and conservation and water reuse for new sources of water instead of taking water from instream flows,” added Williams. “The water frontier is over.”

The Foster decision also holds that Ecology may not use non-water environmental restoration projects as a basis for issuing water rights. Ecology has issued a handful of water right decisions allowing river depletion in exchange for activities such as wetland restoration, floodplain easements, placement of large woody debris in rivers, and monetary payments.

“Ecology is increasingly relying on “out-of-kind” mitigation projects as a basis for issuing new water rights,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior policy adviser for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Today the Court has clarified that habitat projects or monetary payments cannot substitute for water. This is a very good decision for Washington’s over-allocated and much-depleted rivers and aquifers.”

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy provided support to Sara Foster through its Water Rights 9-1-1 program helping citizens struggling with water resource issues, and filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case.

September Edition of Washington Water Watch Is Out!

Dry Orchards in Benton County - Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Dry Orchards in Benton County – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

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.

Click here to read more.