Washington Water Watch: February 2020 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,

This year started off unusually warm and wet with Seattle experiencing its 3rd warmest January on record and the wettest start to the year in over a decade. January was Washington’s 12th warmest on record and among its least snowy. February has also had record-breaking warm days and there were numerous floods across Western Washington. This trend is worrisome for our water resources with more rain and less snow during the winter months leading to droughts during the summer. Thankfully we have received a lot of snow in the mountains in the last few weeks and our snowpack is now over 100% of normal. We will be monitoring what happens in the next few months to see if we will experience another drought. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we have been working hard in Olympia to protect Washington’s waters. This year’s legislative session has kept CELP very busy dealing with over a dozen water bills. But our hard work would not be possible without you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. If you haven’t renewed your membership for 2020, you can do it today on our secure website, www.celp.org.

In this issue you will find information about water banking, water bottling, the legislative session, a call to action, Clean & Abundant Waters lobby day, the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule, upcoming events, and Water Stories. 

Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the Full Newsletter

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National Park by Julie Titone

Honoring Spokane businesses, American Whitewater for River Protection

For Immediate Release (February 26)

Honoring event will launch campaign to protect Spokane River, a test case for rivers statewide

Contacts:

Summary: The 13th annual Winter Waters celebration is jointly hosted by the Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club and CELP.  UCR Group, based in Spokane, will honor “Spokane River Flow Champions.”   Link to event webpage.

Who is being honored:

Timing, historical significance:    2020 is a pivotal year for protecting a clean, flowing Spokane River.  Decisions about how to manage water quantity and quality in the Spokane River have consequences for rivers throughout Washington.

Protecting Spokane River summertime flows.   In July 2019, the State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Sierra Club, CELP and American Whitewater, holding that the Washington Department of Ecology failed to protect Spokane River flows as required by the Water Resources Act. (link). Ecology appealed, and on May 14 the state Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the case.

Spokane businesses – ROW Adventures (Peter Grubb), Silver Bow Fly Shop (Sean Visintainer), and FLOW Adventures (Jon Wilmot) – actively assisted in the petition and lawsuit asking the State to recognize and protect impacted businesses when setting flows for the Spokane River.  

The Upper Columbia River Group is also honoring Thomas O’Keefe of American Whitewater, for his central role in protecting the Spokane River.  American Whitewater is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States.  

Cleaning up the Spokane River’s PCB pollution.  Water quality in the Spokane River is already compromised, and now faces two major threats, from both the Trump Administration and the State of Washington.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rolled back fish consumption standards that control toxic PCBs.  These watered-down standards threaten public health.

The Department of Ecology is also weakening clean water standards through its new “Variance” process, which will allow municipal and industrial polluters to continue to put large quantities of PCBs into the Spokane River.  In 2020, the State will hold public meetings and take public comment on the Variance proposal. 

Launching a statewide campaign for a clean, flowing Spokane River.  At the March 6 honoring event, Sierra Club will launch a statewide effort to involve the public in agency decisions regarding the Spokane River.  With tribes leading efforts to restore salmon to the Upper Columbia Basin, Sierra Club’s campaign seeks clean, flowing water to support the return of spawning salmon to the Spokane River.

When: Friday, March 6th, 2020 6:00 pm- 9:00 pm 

Where: Spokane’s Historic Patsy Clark Mansion, 2208 W. 2nd Ave

Tickets: $40 per person, $70 for two (purchase online or at the door-please RSVP).  

Quotes (from the legal challenge to protect summertime flows, Spokane River):

       Peter Grubb, ROW Adventures:

“The importance of the Spokane River to those living and recreating in the area cannot be overstated. In fact, I believe that the Spokane River offers the best natural whitewater experience available in a major U.S. city. It offers a whitewater experience that is accessible to a broad cross-section of users, from beginning rafters to experienced whitewater paddlers.” 

“The 850 cfs [cubic feet per second] flow that was enacted as a minimum flow in the final Spokane River Instream Flow Rule could eliminate a major portion of our business. We have found that the whitewater trips at higher flows are more popular with clients than the float trips at lower flows. Because the Instream Flow Rule only protects low river flows (e.g. 850 cfs) for much of the summer season, it would reduce the amount of time that we can run whitewater trips and our business would be adversely affected.”

       Sean Visintainer, Silver Bow Fly Shop:

“River flow is critical for my business. In addition to absolute water levels, the aesthetics of the river determine how likely clients are to want to fish. At 750 cfs fishing the Spokane is far less attractive, and even at 850 cfs people are likely to choose other activities over fishing.  I believe that a higher minimum summer flow would be very helpful to my business. The river habitat is more productive for fish at higher levels, and the aesthetics are much better than at lower flows. At or below 850 cfs, the habitat where fish are found is more fragmented, water temperatures may be higher in some stretches, which is not good for trout, and the water moves at a much slower pace.
I estimate that we lost approximately 40 guiding days in the summer of 2015 due to the low river flows. At times we were unable to navigate portions of the river due to low water. Fishing restrictions due to the low flows and high temperatures (fishing was restricted to before 2:00 PM) also reduced fishing opportunities.”

       Jon Wilmot, FLOW Adventures:

“The Spokane River is a critical amenity for the city of Spokane and the surrounding area, and is one of the most popular recreational features of the area. Because of its proximity to the city, it is possible to run half-day or one-day trips without the need to drive significant distances. This outstanding accessibility makes Spokane River trips feasible for visitors with limited time. I am not aware of any other city that has this kind of local whitewater experience available to visitors. I depend on the River for a major portion of my business, and my ability to operate on the River is dependent on adequate instream flows.”

Event sponsors:  * Upper Columbia United Tribes * Adventure Travel Trade Association/Adventure 360 * Eymann Allison Jones Law Firm * Northwest Whitewater Association * American Whitewater  * Hydropower Reform Coalition * Columbia Institute for Water Policy * Rachael & John Osborn * Linda Finney & Tom Soeldner * Morton Alexander & Paige Kenney * Joyce & John Roskelley * Suzy Dix-Windermere * Allen “AT” Miller-Lukins & Annis Attorneys at Law * Jeff Lambert * Kathy Dixon & Barbara Rasero * Fred Christ *


CELP Summer Internship

Skagit River. Taken by Brian Walsh

We are accepting applications for a Summer 2020 Legal Intern at our Seattle office.

We seek a legal intern with a demonstrated interest in environmental issues to work on projects aimed at establishing protected instream flows.  Qualified candidates will have completed their 2L year and taken an environmental law course.  Coursework or clinical experience in administrative law is preferred. Exact internship dates are flexible depending on academic schedules, but generally run from June – August and last 90 days. Please email a CV, a writing sample, and references to Dan Von Seggern, Staff Attorney  at dvonseggern@celp.org 

Deadline for applications is March 15th.


Washington Water Watch: January 2020 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,


Happy New Year everyone! CELP is entering 2020 focused on our mission to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters. 


This year we will continue our outreach to connect people to the impacts of climate change and water scarcity issues. We will continue to act in the community, participate in streamflow restoration workgroups, work with Native American Tribes to honor and support their treaty rights and tribal fisheries, and advocate for sustainable instream flows. When our water is threatened we will use litigation to protect and defend Washington’s rivers and drinking water aquifers.


We are starting the year strong and working hard in Olympia to protect Washington’s waters during the legislative session. Our hard work would not be possible without you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Please consider helping us continue this important work by making a donation today!


In this issue you will find information about Snowpack levels, the 2020 Legislative Session, Clean and Abundant Water Lobby Day, the latest Columbia River Treaty town hall, a big thank you to the Kalispel Tribe and to all of our supporters, and upcoming events.

 Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Full Newsletter

Methow River. Elan Ebeling.

Washington Water Watch: November Edition

Photo: Kayla Jo Media

Dear friends of CELP,


As the year winds down, the state drought declaration for 27 watersheds remains in effect, expiring April 4th, 2020.  As winter approaches, snowpack levels continue to be less than average. These levels are critical to water supplies and replenishing aquifers. Our rivers and streams are already struggling to meet minimum instream flows, and climate change is further impacting our water supplies.


That’s why CELP has been working to protect and restore stream flows in watersheds around the state – work that is now more critical than ever. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Please consider helping us continue this important work by making a donation today!


In this issue, you will find information about the South Puget Sound chum run, CELP in the community, #GivingTuesday, and our Winter Continuing Legal Education workshop.

 Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

For Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/2XEAEer


Remembering Pat Sumption

John & Rachael Osborn:

First, let us thank Pat’s three sons – David, Cameron, and Chris – especially for helping their mother in the last part of her life’s journey.

Pat Sumption was a consummate environmental activist. She was dauntless, persistent, strategic, and unerring in her sense of the right thing to do, especially for Washington’s rivers. She worked for decades for the protection of the Green River, including standing up to Tacoma’s ever-thirsty water grab through the infamous Pipeline Five.

Rachael uncovered an essay Pat herself had written and published in the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) newsletter in 2016. Here are Pat’s words from “Love Letter to the Green River”:


I didn’t mean to fall in love with the Green River. It just happened. It just grew like Topsy.

I discovered rivers when I went to Girl Scout camp at 12. We did a multi-day hike on the Dosewallips. We swam in the river and nearly froze our toes, and it was beautiful and I was in love with the Dosewallips and rivers everywhere. So it was inevitable when someone aimed me at a river canoe, that I would get in it and try paddling. And, I guess it was inevitable when I was told to choose my favorite Washington river at a State Rivers Conference in the 1980’s, that I would choose the Green. It is the color of my eyes, after all, and I had to choose something.

All those at the Conference who chose the Green (even if their eyes weren’t), were sent to one corner and told that our task was to form a Green River group which would then work on protecting our chosen River. There must have been other fanatics in our Group, because we did just that: we formed Friends of the Green River and started raising money and incorporating a non-profit. And the more I did for the Green, the more I fell in love with it.

The Green River has a secret that gets many people hooked on it. Part of it is hidden in a deep, quiet gorge that’s almost inaccessible except by boat. Boaters come from all over the world to boat the Green River Gorge. It’s untrammeled, pristine, gorgeously draped in damp green mosses and ferns – a fantasy, watery, world of Green.

But, the Green River has 2 dams on it. The Corps of Engineers built a dam for flood control in the middle of the 20th Century. Tacoma then built a smaller dam downstream . . . [to pipe] Green River water to municipal customers in Pierce County.

Those dams meant problems for the ecology of the Green, and for recreational boaters. They were threats to the salmon and steelhead runs of the Green River; there was no fish passage for either dam.

By the 1980s, Tacoma had plans to build a new water supply pipeline through south King County rather than directly to Pierce County and Tacoma, because they wanted to sell some of that water to the water districts and towns in south King County along the way.

Friends of the Green River (FOG) had been created to protect the Green and its watershed, including not allowing more water to be taken from the River. FOG appealed … the permits to build the new Pipeline through King County where it would cross a number of streams, wetlands, etc. …

We eventually … negotiated with Tacoma and a 1995 Agreement gave us a number of things that could help the Green River, its habitat, its salmon and perhaps even its white water boaters. …

Remember, it takes a community to care for a river and its watershed.


And this from Elaine Packard, friend and colleague in advocacy for Washington’s rivers:

“Pat was a longstanding member of the Sierra Club’s Water & Salmon Committee which she chaired for a time. For decades, she was one of its most dedicated members, serving as activist, as well as mentor and advisor. And Pat brought institutional memory along with her expertise about water. Anyone who worked to protect rivers in Washington: she knew them and she’d probably worked with them.

Pat’s training as a lawyer gave her a laser mind on issues. But it was her love of rivers that inspired her to serve in many leadership roles with Sierra Club, Friends of the Green River, CELP, Rivers Council, and other groups. She will be missed and remembered fondly for her commitment, her persistence, and her special charm. She was a respected elder in the Chapter whose memory will not be forgotten.”


In closing, rivers and future generations, depend on us to give them a voice. Pat gave voice to rivers.

On the day before Pat’s life celebration, Rachael and I sat and talked about Pat. How is it that someone with such a powerful presence can be among us on one day, and then be gone the next? Where are they? Where did they go?

Flowing through forests and human communities in western Washington is the Green River. Pat may be gone. Pat’s spirit? Pat remains with the river she so deeply loves. Let Pat’s love and work for rivers carry on through all of us.


Washington Water Watch: September Addition

Check out our newest Washington Water Watch newsletter:

Photo: John Osborn

Dear friends of CELP,


Summer is winding down, and hopefully most of you got a chance to get out and enjoy the wonderful recreational opportunities on our rivers. But sadly, those opportunities were limited in some areas of the state due to low river flows caused by this year’s drought. Climate Change is contributing to an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts in our state, and state policies need to do more to proactively combat this. Other threats continue to pop up like the proposed Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Randal next to the Cowlitz River, a river that doesn’t have the protection of an Instream Flow Rule. 


That’s why CELP has been working to protect and restore stream flows in watersheds around the state – work that is now more critical than ever. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Please consider helping us continue this important work by making a donation today!


In this issue you will find information about CELP’s win on the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule, CELP in the community, the Crystal Geyser water bottling plant proposal, salmon in the Upper Columbia River, a thank you to the Swinomish, and an AWRA event announcement.  

Sincerely, Trish
Trish Rolfe
Executive Director
trolfe@celp.org

For the full newsletter – click here: https://conta.cc/32CvW2n


More Controversy Stirs: Crystal Geyser Bottling Plant Proposal

Crystal Geyser submitted a proposal for a water bottling plant in Randle, Washington that is planning to take 325,000 gallons a day out of the Cowlitz river watershed if its permit is approved by Ecology. This has huge implications for water quality, quantity, critical fish habitat, and land use.

Take a listen to this short segment on the most recent slip-up in the Crystal Geyser bottling plant proposal. Thanks, KUOW-FM for the informative look into what has been going on, as well as the concerns of Randle citizens and others around the state.


July Drought Update

Summer officially began a few weeks ago and Washingtonians are now out hiking, camping and enjoying all the outdoors activities our state has to offer. But this warm, dry weather comes with frightening prospects for Washington’s rivers and streams. As you may have heard, Governor Inslee declared an emergency drought back in early April and since then he has expanded it to over half of the state. Snowpack conditions are less than 50% of the average for this time of year, and 83% of our rivers and streams are flowing well below normal with many experiencing record lows.  

The Naches River flows low as it feeds into the Yakima – Washington State Department of Ecology.

This is not good news for Washington’s rivers and the fish that depend on them. Statewide, more than two dozen salmon populations are listed as endangered, and this year’s drought could cause these salmon populations to dwindle even more, hampering recovery efforts for the endangered Resident Orcas as well. Low flows are also impacting water quality in many of our rivers and streams, and causing rafting and kayaking business to cancel summer trips. In many areas of the state water users have already been told to cut back their water use until stream flows improve. As bad as this all is it’s likely to get much worse, Climate Change and our states population growth continue to strain Washington’s already over-allocated water resources.  

Even in light of all this, there is still immense pressure to give away our water, like a proposed Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Randle, Washington that is planning to take 325,000 gallons a day out of the Cowlitz river watershed if its permit is approved by Ecology. That’s where CELP comes in. As Washington’s only water defender, CELP has worked passionately since 1993 to protect and restore clean, flowing waters in Washington, and we are now working around the state to stop this wholesale giveaway of our water resources, and restore flows in the many rivers and streams across the state. But we can’t do it alone.  Your support now means more than ever. Please consider making a donation today.  You can donate online at our secure website, or send us a check in the mail. CELP’s work to protect Washington’s water resources depends on it.    

Take a look at current streamflow conditions here: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/water-dashboard/surface?state=wa


Court: State failed to protect Spokane River’s summertime flows

For immediate release

June 27, 2019

Appeals court sides with Spokane River advocates:  State failed to protect Spokane River summertime flows

Contacts:

SPOKANE – On June 26, 2019, the Washington State Court of Appeals Division II ruled in favor of Spokane River advocates, finding that the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) failed to protect summertime flows needed by the river, and thousands of boaters, fishers, anglers, and businesses.  The court, in rejecting Ecology’s Spokane River rule, underscored that the agency arbitrarily disregarded thousands of public comments, boater surveys, an analysis comparing the aesthetics of different flows, and testimony of river-dependent businesses.

Ecology adopted the Spokane River flow regulation in 2015. Water advocacy groups Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP), American Whitewater, and Sierra Club filed an appeal, arguing that the state was required to consider all uses of the river, not just fishery uses, in adopting an instream flow regulation or rule for the river. The court agreed, holding that Ecology did not have discretion to disregard recreational and aesthetic use of the river.

“During hot summer months, Spokane River flows must be protected for community recreational and aesthetic use, as well as fish and wildlife,” said John Osborn, conservation chair for the local Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “The Department of Ecology, which has a long record of issuing water rights to the point of endangering rivers and aquifers, should not be allowed to further degrade the Spokane River by leaving open the door for more water rights.”

The court ruled:

  • “The [Spokane] river is a central feature of the region’s identity, and Spokane residents view the river as an integral part of their community. (Opinion, p.3)
  • Ecology may not “narrowly protect only one instream value that Ecology deems ‘best’”, but must “meaningfully consider a range of instream values . . .” (Opinion, p. 17)
  • “Ecology’s explanations for establishing instream flows based only on fish habitat studies without regard to how its proposed flow would protect other values was arbitrary and capricious. Therefore, the resulting Rule is invalid.” (Opinion, p.21)

“The Court recognized that rivers have many valuable uses, and that determining the best flow requires balancing among those uses. If fish need a certain flow, that wins out. But here more water would be better for fish as well as recreational uses.  Ecology ignored recreational and aesthetic uses of the river at their peril,” said Andrew Hawley of the Western Environmental Law Center, attorney for the appellants.

“Through the process of setting a minimum instream flow, Ecology chose to ignore the needs of recreational users of the Spokane River,” said Thomas O’Keefe of American Whitewater. “Today the court agreed that a minimum flow of 850 cfs would not be adequate to support rafting, kayaking, and other recreational uses of the river. Ecology must seek to protect multiple instream values and this ruling makes clear that the agency has a responsibility to do that.”

“Today’s decision means Ecology must consider all uses of the river (and other rivers and streams in Washington) and provide meaningful protection of instream values,” said Dan Von Seggern, attorney with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “The Spokane River supports fish populations, rafting and kayaking, summer recreation and riverside habitat. Climate change and increased demand for water will put more and more pressure on these uses of the Spokane in the future. An instream flow rule will protect the river from these threats.  Unfortunately, by ignoring thousands of public comments, considering only fish habitat and protecting only a near-drought level summer streamflow, Ecology failed to consider recreation, navigation and the river ecosystem in general.  We hope that Ecology will now set a summer flow level that considers all of these uses, and protects more of the water that now flows in the River.”

“We hope this decision marks a turning point in how the Department of Ecology approaches its task of protecting the people, fish, and wildlife that depend on healthy rivers,” said Andrew Hawley, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Going forward, we expect to see Ecology make decisions that account for all the beneficial uses our shared rivers have to offer.”

The Department of Ecology could appeal this decision to the Washington Supreme Court, or accept the decision and go back to work on the Spokane River rule, fully involving the community in adoption of a new rule.

Appellants are Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Dan Von Seggern (CELP) and Andrew Hawley (Western Environmental Law Center).

More background available here.

Court of Appeals’ Ruling on Spokane River Flows:  here.

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