Lee First is co-founder and Waterkeeper of Twin Harbors Waterkeeper. Please describe your relationship to…
The city of Airway Heights (The City) currently pumps water from several small aquifers: the Airway Heights Paleochannel Aquifer, the Wanapum Unit, and the Grande Ronde Unit. The City would like to begin pumping from the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRP Aquifer). In order to establish this new water right, The City has indicated a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) in their State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) application.
In order to have a DNS there must be “no probable significant adverse environmental impacts from a proposal.” In this case the City has laid out a detailed plan to cease pumping at its current wells and to begin pumping at new wells down gradient which it has determined will be water budget neutral and thus meets the DNS standard.
CELP's Position and Argument
The Center for Environmental Law & Policy cautions against the city of Airway Heights’ plan.
While CELP concurs that the plan is water budget neutral in the long run, the transition could have significant and detrimental impacts on the Spokane River for the next several years. Due to water replenishment lag times of 4-15 years, it is likely we would see impaired flow in the Spokane River which could cause irrevocable harm to recreation, other water users, fish populations, and wildlife. CELP believes that the potential impact on the Spokane River means that a DNS is inappropriate in this case and that a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) should be completed.
5. Comment Regarding Application for New Water Right Out of Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer