This month’s issue of Water Watch features an interview with Professor William H. Rodgers, a remembrance of Sixnit leader Virgil Seymour, an update on the OWL v. KGH hearing, info on our Summer Membership Special, an interview with CELP’s new board member Steve Robinson, and more.
News Release – Event on June 8
National leader in environmental law, UW’s Bill Rodgers, and Rep. Derek Stanford to be honored for water protection
UW Law Professor honored for lifetime’s work as legal scholar, willingness to challenge polluters, protect environment and Indians’ fishing rights
Rep. Stanford honored for leadership in Legislature to protect public’s waters in Washington State
- Trish Rolfe, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, email@example.com, 206.829-8299
Seattle – On June 8th in Seattle, a national legal scholar and a state legislative leader, will be honored: UW law professor William “Bill” Rodgers and Rep. Derek Stanford.
“We need to pause and take the time to thank and honor our heroes,” said Trish Rolfe, director of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “In this time of climate change, increasing pressure on our rivers and drinking-water aquifers, and rush to exploit the public’s waters, Professor Rodgers and Rep. Stanford deserve thanks and recognition for their public service.”
Professor Rodgers will receive the Ralph Johnson Water Hero Award. Rep. Stanford will receive the Washington Water Policy Award. The awards are presented by the State of Washington’s water watchdog, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.
The Water Hero Award is given in honor of CELP’s founder, Professor Ralph W. Johnson, a law professor at University of Washington Law School who established the legal discipline of Indian Law and advanced legal understandings of protections for public waters. Past recipients of the award include Billy Frank Jr., (a close friend of Prof. Johnson) on behalf of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; and Upper Columbia United Tribes (recognizing all Tribes and First Nations working to modernize the Columbia River Treaty).
The Washington Water Policy Award, given for the first time, goes to an elected official or policy maker that shows outstanding contributions to sustainable water policy in Washington. The first to receive this award is Rep. Stanford for his work during the last two years in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and as vice chair for the Joint Committee, Water Supply During Drought, to help direct state water policy to a more sustainable path.
Honoring Event details
- Event: Celebrate Water! hosted by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy – Washington’s water watchdog
- When: June 8 (Wednesday) 5:30 – 7:30.
- Where: Ivar’s Salmon House 401 NE Northlake Way, Seattle
- Tickets: can be purchased on-line or at the door. Reception – $50; CLE – $30; both – $70
More about Professor Bill Rodgers
- Eye-witness and participant in writing nation’s environmental laws that ushered in the “environmental revolution” starting the late 1960s, 1970s;
- lawyer and witness in the “smelter cases,” including ASARCO’s smelter in Tacoma and the arsenic pollution of Tacoma and Puget Sound;
- lawyer for Indian activists, including after the takeover of the BIA office in Washington,D.C.;
- worked with attorneys, among them UW law professor Ralph W. Johnson, to protect Indian fishing rights (the Boldt decision), representing the Puyallup Tribe’s treaty rights to salmon; and
- author of major treatises on environmental law, an academic who has also worked to hold judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, accountable for their decisions.
Prof. Rodgers is available for interviews. On a personal note, Bill Rodgers’ daughter, Andrea Rodgers, is a leading environmental attorney representing children challenging the State of Washington to address climate change. (more)
- Honoring event webpage
- Profile, Professor Rodgers
- The Personal Impact of the Boldt Case: A Tribute to Professor William H. Rodgers , Jr.
- Rep. Derek Stanford
- About Professor Ralph W. Johnson, and the Watershed Hero Award given in his name
Tuesday, May 31
- Andrea Rodgers (Western Environmental Law Center) (206) 696-2851, firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Roskelley (Center for Environmental Law & Policy) (509) 954-5653 email@example.com
- Thomas O’Keefe (American Whitewater) (425) 417-9012 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tom Soeldner (Sierra Club, Upper Columbia River Group) 509.270-6995 email@example.com
Gov. Inslee has 45 days to decide whether to protect Spokane River flows
Citizens ask Gov. to reopen agency decision that ignored jobs, tourism, boaters, scenery
Spokane – Advocates for the Spokane River are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to grant their petition for protecting all instream values of the Spokane River, including recreational boating opportunities. This is the next step in the citizens’ quest to protect Spokane River flows. A petition was filed in February with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and rejected by the agency in April.
The groups are asking Gov. Inslee to protect jobs, the Spokane River, uphold the law, and avoid embroiling the state in more litigation regarding the Spokane River. Citizens’ letter to the Governor reads, in part:
We would like to make it clear that our goal in bringing this appeal to you is to reach an amicable agreement with Ecology to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow rule in a manner that takes into account and protects aesthetic and recreational values, while also protecting fish habitat. While we are simultaneously appealing Ecology’s decision to Thurston County Superior Court, we are required to do so to preserve our appeal rights pursuant to the Washington Administrative Procedure Act. Our hope is that you will be willing to resolve the issues raised in our appeal without the need for protracted litigation. We are asking that you direct the Department of Ecology to re-open the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule and reassess the minimum summer flows that are needed to protect and preserve recreational and aesthetic uses of the river. Because the Petitioners and Ecology agree that higher flows than those protected in the existing rule will not harm the fish, we believe that a mutually agreeable resolution is possible that is best for the Spokane River.
The Spokane River is a beloved urban river that flows through the second-largest city in Washington State, including spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge. Conservationists seek a minimum summertime flow of 1,800 – 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to support fisheries and recreation, and protect higher flows for recreation when available. Ecology set river flows at 850 cfs, far below typical summer low flows. This rule could effectively make every year a drought year for the Spokane River.
Nearly 2,000 comments, including boater surveys and scenic photographs, were submitted to Ecology during the public comment period on the draft rule. The state agency ignored overwhelming public support for protecting Spokane River flows and adopted low river flows that jeopardize the Spokane River and public uses.
The case has statewide significance because Ecology excluded recreation and outdoor recreation-based jobs from its analysis in setting river flows. Annual economic contributions of outdoor recreation to Washington’s economy are about $20.5 billion, supporting nearly 200,000 jobs. Washington’s natural resources should be managed to support outdoor recreation.
The governor has 45 days to respond to the citizens’ petition. Petitioners are Sierra Club, CELP, and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Andrea Rodgers (Western Environmental Law Center) and Dan Von Seggern (Center for Environmental Law & Policy).
“We are asking Gov. Inslee for leadership to protect jobs and the people’s river,” said John Roskelley, kayaker, author, and vice president of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “Last summer the whole community lived through drought and witnessed the Spokane River reduced to a trickle amid boulder fields. The state has a trust responsibility for our river, and an obligation to protect the state’s outdoor recreation economy.”
“Our city owes its origins, its beauty, and a great deal of its past and present life to the Spokane River,” said Tom Soeldner, co-chair of Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group based in Spokane. “It would be a betrayal of the river and our identity if we did not maintain healthy and aesthetic river flows that also support outdoor recreation and jobs.”
“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows sets a dangerous precedent for Washington State’s rivers,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater “Our state’s river face many demands but ultimately we have a collective responsibility for the stewardship and protection of our state’s rivers, and Department of Ecology must protect the diversity of beneficial uses our rivers provide including recreation.”
“Gov. Inslee has expressed his commitment to encouraging outdoor recreation in the state of Washington and this petition to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule gives him the opportunity to do just that,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We are asking the governor to ensure that recreational uses of the river are not only considered, but protected, as is required by law. The ball is in Gov. Inslee’s court to do what is right for the river so future generations of Washingtonians can recreate on the river for years to come.”
# # #
Happy Earth Day from CELP! This month’s issue features an article on our What’s Upstream Campaign, updates on the Spokane River PCB cleanup and the Fox v. Skagit County decision, and info on GiveBIG and our upcoming Celebrate Water event. Plus, in honor of Earth Day, learn how you can prevent pollution of Washington’s rivers and streams in your own backyard!
Save the Date: Saturday October 24 at the University of Portland
One month after Pope Francis speaks to Congress, we invite you to join us at the University of Portland’s Buckley Center Auditorium on Saturday, October 24 from 8 am – 4 pm, for a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River. This event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided.
Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, “One River, Ethics Matter” is a conference series exploring the moral dimensions of the impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations and the river itself. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference from which issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty signed by religious and indigenous leaders and many others. Please join us for the second of these conferences with a focus on flood-risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship. We’ll explore measures to correct historic injustice — including less environmentally damaging options to protect Portland from floods and restoring salmon to ancestral spawning grounds. Support is growing to expand the treaty’s original purposes (flood risk management and hydropower) by adding a third purpose: “ecosystem function” to restore health to the Columbia River, including the return of salmon to ancestral spawning waters.
The Portland conference will open with Bishop William Skylstad, the force behind the Columbia River Pastoral Letter, and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) speaking on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. Other speakers will include Virgil Seymour who will describe the fate of the Sinixt Nation located in the Upper Columbia and declared “extinct” by Canada in 1956 during Treaty negotiations with the United States. Crystal Spicer will describe the valiant effort by her father to save their family home and farm while 2,300 people were forced by the B.C. government to relocated. The conference will conclude with a discussion of the current opportunities to modernize the Columbia River Treaty that governs management of the River, while underscoring the need to revisit flood risk management.
International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change. “One River, Ethics Matter” intends to use the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and the tools used by hospital ethics committees to help establish a water ethic as foundational for international decisions on water.
RSVP contact: Belgin Inan firstname.lastname@example.org 503.943.8342
RSVP deadline: October 16
Conference Poster print ~ post ~ share
Link to Facebook and share
History of the Creation of the Columbia River Treaty
The 1948 flooding of the city of Vanport, outside of Portland, helped launch the creation of the Columbia River Treaty. To provide housing for Kaiser shipyard workers and their families, the Columbia River was diked and public housing built on the floodplain in 1942. Adjacent to Portland near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Vanport was at one point Oregon’s second largest city. In 1948 during a flood event, the dikes gave way. The flooding of Vanport was the Hurricane Katrina story of its day. Fifteen people died, and the city was destroyed.
But the story did not end there. Vanport was used to justify the need for more flood protection – resulting in the damming and permanent flooding of river valleys in interior British Columbia and Montana – the “Treaty dams.” These dams came at the end of the dam-building era in the Columbia that transformed the River into a machine with devastating consequences for salmon, tribes and First Nations, and the river itself. Today the great salmon gathering places of Celilo Falls and Kettle Falls are underwater, flooded by reservoirs.
Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors
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
Conference Links –
In this month’s newsletter, you’ll find an update on Washington’s drought, an article about the H2KNOW campaign currently going on in Spokane, a profile of Frank James, one of CELP’s board members, and more water news.
Check it out here.
High water use impacts Spokane River flows
H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low and the City of Spokane’s Slow the Flow Program joined together today to strongly encourage people to conserve water during our drought, record-high heat, and a drastically reduced river flow.
“We are pleased to join the City of Spokane in strengthening awareness of aquifer-river relationships and an increased call for water conservation,” said John Roskelley, H2KNOW co-organizer, CELP board member and former Spokane County Commissioner. “During this drought summer, governments, businesses, and people are all pumping high levels of water and this is robbing our river of its water. Such extremely low river flows have negative impacts on small businesses, fish and wildlife, family recreation, and the overall identity of our community. ‘Near nature, near perfect’ is more than a slogan, it reflects a deeper relationship with our river.”
Compare the Spokane River at 2500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the photo on the left, taken July 2014, to 630 cfs in the photo on the right, taken this August from the same spot in Riverside State Park.
Rick Romero, the City’s Utilities Division Director, said, “Just as the City has taken a strong regional leadership role on improving the water quality in the Spokane River through the development of its Integrated Clean Water Plan and plans for more than $300 million in river investments, we want to enhance our leadership role on water conservation efforts and protecting our river flows. We are proud that our citizens already are responding positively. Following record water pumping in June when temperatures were unusually high, our pumping numbers for July are pretty average when looking at the last 25 years of data. And, today, we ask citizens to continue their work to ‘Slow the Flow.’”
Today’s water conservation message builds on approval by the City Council on August 10th of a request to make the position of Education Coordinator for the City’s Water Department full time. As noted by Council Member Jon Snyder:
… We have to have a systemic approach that not only addresses consumer use and how people use water but a whole planning and a whole vision for our water future here in the Spokane area.
… I’m also looking forward for chances for this Council to weigh in on the Water Plan and other Water Policy so we can make some good decisions that will last years into the future. (view statement)
The City and H2KNOW urge Spokane water customers to keep in mind the Spokane River and voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 to 20 percent. This can be achieved through the following and other simple solutions around the home:
- Reduce lawn watering to only twice per week. Don’t water on windy days, and turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
- Water your lawn and garden only at night or in the very early morning; water evaporates in the hot mid-day.
- Take shorter showers and install a low-flow showerhead.
Citizens should also think long-term. Weather forecasters already are predicting that the Pacific Northwest may have another low-snow winter and long, hot summer in 2016. Install low-flow toilets, change your landscaping to remove thirsty lawns and install water-efficient native plants.
H2KNOW is a community awareness campaign is supported by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.
Follow Spokane’s Slow the Flow campaign.
Update and correction from the H2KNOW campaign: the data for this blog post were from the USGS website, and have subsequently been revised upward to flows around 700cfs. “Provisional Data Subject to Revision” is noted on the river gage website. Current flows of around 700 are extremely low, while not yet at historic lows. Despite low flows, water use remains high.
Spokane River flows dropping
Plea for community to conserve water to help struggling river
Today the H2KNOW community water-conservation campaign sounded the alarm that water levels in the Spokane River dropped below 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time this summer. Meanwhile, City of Spokane water use is at an all-time high: 3.8 billion gallons in July, or 122 million gallons of water each day.
“Our Spokane River is in trouble, and we must conserve water,” said John Osborn with the new H2KNOW water conservation campaign. “We must use water wisely to help our struggling river.”
Water supply is provided by groundwater from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The Aquifer also supplies water to the Spokane River. Increased groundwater pumping for human use directly depletes flow in the River.
Hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees are forecast again for much of this week. Drought combined with excessive water use by the 500,000 people living in this basin are causing historic extremes in low flow for the Spokane River. The lowest flows ever recorded are in the mid-400 cfs range, and we have begun to break the record according to the USGS Spokane River gage. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and businesses that depend on the river.
“Conserve water for the river’s sake,” said Tom Soeldner, a retired Lutheran pastor who co-chair’s Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “There is a void in leadership from our government on water conservation during this drought. We as individuals must take responsibility for protecting our Spokane River.”
Five actions that people can take to conserve water and help our Spokane River:
- Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop overwatering grass)
- Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
- Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
- Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)
- Replace your lawn with low-water plants
Comparing flows now with prior years underscores the terrible condition of the river and the need for people to act. One year ago, in 2014, lowest flows were about 900cfs. When Spokane was a young city in the 1890s, flows ranged from 1500-2000cfs in August. River flows are monitored at a stream gage near the Monroe Street dam, the oldest continuous gage in Washington State.
During the first week of August, the H2KNOW campaign launched a regional public education effort to help people understand the connection between aquifer and river, and the need to conserve water during this drought summer and beyond. For more on the water conservation campaign and what people can do, visit www.H2KNOW.info
Water Awareness Campaign launched in Spokane this week
This morning, where the aquifer springs bubble up and flow into the Spokane River near the TJ Meenach bridge, a concerned group of Spokane citizens launched, “H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low!” a public awareness campaign that highlights the critical relationship between human water usage, the aquifer and the flow of the Spokane River.
Campaign co-organizer John Osborn, a Spokane physician and conservationist, as well as CELP’s Board Chair, reached down and scooped up aquifer-spring water and said, “Nearly every bucket of this aquifer water we use is a bucket that doesn’t flow into the Spokane River.” Pouring the water back into the River, Osborn encouraged, “While we should conserve water anyway, we have a very special reason to use water wisely: when we pump our aquifer, we rob our river. That’s why we created H2KNOW public awareness campaign to help save our Spokane River.”
Spokane citizens are encouraged to visit www.H2KNOW.info for more information and tips on how conserve water in and around our homes, especially this summer.
H2KNOW aims to educate and motivate Spokane-area citizens about the low river flow that has been brought on very early this summer due to low snow and record-high heat. Osborn noted that water levels are approaching record lows, and it’s only early August.
John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner and clean water advocate (and CELP board member) spoke to the economic and recreational loss that is tied to the River’s low flow, “The Spokane River is what our quality of life is all about,” he said. “This is not just about today or tomorrow, but about this community’s future. The river drives a great deal of our economy from tourism to industry and impacts small businesses and home owners. Near nature; near perfect is not just a slogan, but a way of life here and the river has a great deal to do with it.”
“H2KNOW” billboards appeared around Spokane beginning Friday, August 1st. One version reads, “Know the Flow – River Running Low,” with a tied-off garden hose and dry rock in the river. Another features a snake-like coiled garden hose and a great blue heron with the question, “Is Your Hose Draining Her Habitat?”
Tina Wynecoop, whose husband is a Spokane Tribe of Indians elder, noted the tremendous efforts to clean up Spokane River pollution and the need now to focus on protecting the river’s flow. “The river is gasping for water. Especially during this year of drought, we need to protect the aquifer that gives the river its ‘breath.’”
With the H2KNOW campaign officially launched, organizers are now actively forming alliances with stakeholders, scheduling speaking opportunities, and most of all, will continue working with a person-to-person approach to increasing public awareness. John Osborn wrapped up today’s campaign kickoff event by calling on all Spokane-area citizens to “think about our Spokane River and wildlife who depend on these waters every time you turn on a water faucet.”
The campaign is supported by Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.
United States moves closer to negotiating with Canada to modernize international River Treaty
Today Northwest conservation groups and the fishing community praised the U.S. State Department for including ecosystem function in the nation’s negotiation position as it prepares to negotiate the Columbia River Treaty with Canada. The State Department’s decision came in a May 20 letter received on May 28 by members of the Northwest Congressional delegation, and is based on Regional Recommendations issued in December 2013 by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The State Department letter to the Northwest Congressional delegation states, “Based on the Recommendation, we have decided to include flood risk mitigation, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation interests in the draft U.S. negotiating position. We hope to approach Canada soon to being discussions on modernization of the Treaty.”
In the face of mounting regional concern about the need for the United States to move forward and negotiate with Canada, the State Department letter emphasizes that modernizing the river treaty is a priority for the nation: “The Administration recognizes the significant economic and cultural role the Columbia River plays in the lives of your constituents in the Pacific Northwest, including numerous communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. We assure you that the future of the Treaty is a priority, and internal deliberations are gaining momentum.” The State Dept and the Council of Environmental Quality briefed the regional’s Senate staff on February 27 and May 5, and the House staff on May 27.
With glaciers melting in the headwaters and water temperatures rising in the lower Columbia River, climate change is already threatening the river and fisheries that depend on the river. Adding ecosystem function as a third treaty purpose co-equal with hydropower and flood risk management would encourage both Canada and the United States to co-manage the Columbia River as a single river, restore salmon to areas now blocked by dams, and reconnect the river with floodplains.
“There is solid, broad-based support among Northwest states, Tribes, businesses and citizens to promptly begin formal talks with Canada to modernize the half-century-old Columbia River Treaty for tomorrow’s Northwest,” said Pat Ford, representing Save Our wild Salmon. “Conservationists and fishermen applaud the State Department for taking this needed step.”
“WaterWatch of Oregon commends the Obama Administration for taking the initial steps needed to get the region to the goals of abundant salmon runs, healthy river ecosystems and economic vitality for the many communities that depend on the Columbia River,” said John DeVoe, WaterWatch of Oregon’s Executive Director.
The basis for the State Department’s decision is “Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024,” issued in December 2013.That recommendation includes restoring the ecosystem as a primary purpose of an updated treaty, co-equal to hydropower and flood control — a feature that will make the Treaty a model of international water management. “The Regional Recommendation gives the Obama Administration a unique opportunity to improve the health of an iconic international river. The northwest Congressional Delegation, and in particular, Senators Murray and Wyden, are to be commended for recognizing the need to seize the moment,” said Greg Haller, Conservation Director for the Pacific Rivers Council.
All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation. Religious leaders have joined in support of Tribes and First Nations, based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter.
“Canada and the United States together have stewardship and justice responsibilities to manage the river as a single ecologic system,” said John Osborn, a Spokane physician and a coordinator of the Ethics & Treaty Project. “In a time of climate change the international effort to modernize the Columbia River Treaty can by summarized with just four words: ‘One River, ethics matter.’”
The Columbia River Treaty went into effect in 1964. In 2024 flood-risk responsibility, now shared by Canada and the U.S., shifts to the United States. Canada would only provide assistance when the U.S. requests help. Such a change will have major impacts in the U.S. on reservoir levels, hydropower production, water supply, irrigation, and salmon. As written, the recommendation includes a public process to explore innovative ways to manage river flows and flood risk.
Center for Environmental Law & Policy | WaterWatch of Oregon
Pacific Rivers Council | Save Our wild Salmon | Sierra Club | Columbia Institute for Water Policy