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Washington Water Watch: August Edition

Dear friends of CELP,

As the summer winds down in this crazy year, I hope you all got a chance to get out and recreate on Washington’s amazing rivers and streams, a great way to recharge from the stress we are all experiencing. These waters are the life blood of Washington that should be protected and celebrated by all. But sadly, there are many who only see our waterways as a resource to be exploited harming fish and the public who rely on them. The impacts from Climate Change are only making a dire situation even worse. 

That’s why CELP continues our important work to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters now and for future generations. But we can’t do it alone. We rely heavily on support from individuals like you, so if you are able please support CELP’s important work by donating on our website: www.celp.org

In spite of our work, sometimes our efforts fail, and that happened with our challenge to the flawed summer flow in the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule. The State Supreme Court ruled against us, and now the people and businesses in Spokane are the real losers. The Department of Ecology can now issue water rights that will drop the flow in the river to drought levels during the summer, making recreation on the river almost impossible.

In this issue you will find more information on this State Supreme Court ruling, Governor Inslee’s letters pausing the proposed Chehalis River dam, a bio of Celebrate Water’s guest speaker, the American Water Resource Association’s state conference event, and more. 

I also want to send out a big thank you to all of our Celebrate Waters Sponsors. They play a huge role in helping us do our important work!

 Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

PS. Please tune into Celebrate Waters Virtual event on September 17th and stay safe!

Read the Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/2EQvkQg


Washington Water Watch: June 2020 Edition

Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends of CELP,
We hope you are all staying safe and healthy. As CELP staff continues into its fourth month of working from home, we continue to stay focused on our mission, but our work continues to change as this crisis continues. Our outreach has changed considerably as we say goodbye to our Outreach Coordinator of three years, Nick Manning, who just graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington and has moved on to fight climate change with another organization. Congratulation Nick, and good luck in your new job. We have also had to change our outreach plans as all the events and programs that we had on our calendar for the summer were canceled because of COVID-19. Going forward we will be transitioning to virtual outreach events and reaching out by phone and email to continue to do this important work, please feel free to reach out to us if you want to join us in protecting Washington’s water resources. Our legal and policy work continue with virtual hearings and meetings. 

CELP continues this important work to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters now for future generations because our water resources face tremendous challenges. The impacts from Climate Change and increased development have impaired our rivers and streams, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. But we can’t do it alone. We rely heavily on support from individuals like you, so if you are able please support CELP’s important work by donating on our website, www.celp.org.


In this issue you will find an update on the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule case, a BIG thank you, our Chehalis River dam proposal comments, an introduction to our 2020 interns, our 2019 annual report, and information on our upcoming Celebrate Water event.

Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/38f5vnf


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

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


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


Washington Water Watch: April 2019 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,  It’s been a while  since our last Washington Water Watch and CELP has been busy working to protect and restore Washington’s waters. This year is shaping up to be a critical year for water in Washington, as the Department of Ecology just declared a drought in  three  watersheds: The Upper Yakima, Okanogan, and Methow. This could be bad news for fish and our population of Resident Orca’s.

 

March was unprecedentedly dry, and it is likely to only get worse from here. The coming months are forecast to be warmer and drier than normal, putting more and more areas around the state at risk. The warmer the summers get with Climate Change; the more frequently droughts are likely to occur. The only way we can proactively combat this is to start planning now and encourage the state to prioritize sound sustainable water policy. All this makes CELP’s work more critical than ever, but our work would not be possible without supporters like you. We rely on our generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Renew your membership today on our secure website.

 

In this issue you will find information about this year’s Celebrate Waters and GiveBIG campaign, CELP’s newest staff members, an upcoming Ethics Conference, a recap of CELP’s first ever Lobby Day as well as Winter Waters, a legislative wrap up and more.

 

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

 

P.S. April 22nd is Earth Day and CELP will be working to protect Washington’s rivers and streams! You can help support that work by Making a donation today!

 

Click HERE to read the full report. 


Hirst Update: Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committees

by Trish Rolfe
Last session, the Washington State Legislature passed a streamflow restoration law, ESSB 6091, in response to the Supreme Court’s

Hirst decision. Hirst changed how counties could approve or deny building permits that use permit-exempt wells for a water source.

The law, RCW 90.94 Streamflow Restoration, helps protect water resources while providing water for rural residents reliant on permit exempt wells. The law directs local planning groups in 15 watersheds to develop or update plans that offset potential impacts to instream flows associated with new permit-exempt domestic water use. The law splits up these watersheds into two groups: those with previously adopted watershed plans and those without.

The Nooksack, Nisqually, Lower Chehalis, Upper Chehalis, Okanogan, Little Spokane, and Colville basins all have previously adopted watershed plans. For these seven basins, local watershed planning units are to update their watershed plan in order to compensate for the impacts of new permit exempt well uses.
The law identifies the Nooksack and Nisqually basins as the first two to be completed. They have until February 2019 to adopt a plan; if they fail to do so, Ecology must adopt related rules no later than August 2020. Planning units in the Lower Chehalis, Upper Chehalis, Okanogan, Little Spokane, and Colville basins have until February 2021 to develop their plans. Until watershed plans are updated and rules are adopted in these seven watersheds, new permit-exempt wells require only payment of a $500 fee. The maximum withdrawal is 3,000 gallons per day per connection on an annual average basis.

Deschutes River – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Eight other watersheds do not have previously adopted watershed plans. They are Snohomish, Cedar-Sammamish, Duwamish-Green, Puyallup-White, Chambers-Clover, Deschutes, Kennedy-Goldsborough, and Kitsap. For these eight basins:

  • Ecology will establish and chair watershed committees and invite representatives from local governments, tribes, and interest groups.
  • The plans for these watersheds are due June 30, 2021.
  • New permit-exempt wells require payment of a $500 fee.. The maximum withdrawal is 950 gallons per day per connection, on an annual average basis. During drought, this may be curtailed to 350 gallons per day per connection for indoor use only.
  • Building permit applicants in these areas must adequately manage stormwater onsite.

CELP has been appointed to participate on the Snohomish, Cedar-Sammamish and Duwamish-Green watershed planning units, and we have volunteers participating in several others.

The law also provides $300 million until 2033 for projects that will help fish and streamflows. Watershed planning groups will recommend proposals for funding by Ecology to achieve this.

Litigation News: Freeing the Similkameen River and Dungeness River Rule Challenge

by Dan Von Seggern

CELP Continues Fight to Free Similkameen River

The long-running battle to remove this environmentally damaging and economically unjustifiable Enloe Dam continues. A major tributary to the Okanogan River, the Similkameen flows through 122 miles of potential salmon habitat in British Columbia and Washington. A fish-blocking dam was constructed on the River in 1922 and has not generated power since 1958. The Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD), which owns the dam, is attempting to restart power generation at the dam. The power the dam would produce is not needed and would be much more expensive than the PUD’s current sources of electricity.

On September 13, along with the Sierra Club and Columbiana, CELP filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the Okanogan County PUD as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over the dam’s effect on ESA-listed Upper Columbia steelhead and Chinook salmon. The Notice is the first step towards filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act. We contend that the dam unlawfully harms ESA-listed fish species, that the process of evaluating the dam’s impact on fish was inadequate, and that FERC unlawfully failed to consult with NMFS regarding the listed fish, as the Endangered Species Act requires.

In a separate action, CELP has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review FERC’s giving the PUD additional time to begin construction. The Federal Power Act requires that construction be started within the period of a hydroelectric license, and allows only a single two-year extension. When the PUD failed to begin construction within the required time, FERC “stayed” revocation of the license, effectively giving the PUD additional time. CELP believes that FERC lacked authority to “extend” the license in this manner and that it should have allowed public participation in the license amendment process.

Dungeness River Rule Challenge

This case (Bassett et al. v. Ecology, Case No. 51221-1-II) is a challenge by a group of property rights activists and developers to the Department of Ecology’s Instream Flow Rule for the Dungeness River, WAC 173-518.  CELP supports the Rule, which provides for mitigated use of new permit-exempt wells while protecting instream resources.  After the plaintiffs filed suit against Ecology, CELP joined in the case as an intervener to argue in favor of the Rule. CELP and Ecology prevailed in Thurston County Superior Court, and plaintiffs appealed.   Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case on October 18 and we are now awaiting the Court’s ruling.

Protecting Rivers and Salmon in a Post-Hirst Future: Hard Work Is Ahead

by Dan Von Seggern

As we discussed in the last issue of Washington Water Watch, the State Legislature passed a bill (ESSB 6091) that was designed to “fix” the Hirst decision.  CELP is deeply concerned about the potential effects of this bill.

First, at least for the next few years, there will be no meaningful controls whatsoever on permit-exempt withdrawals in most of the state.  Most landowners will be able to get a building permit simply by paying a minimal fee, regardless of the effect on streamflows or other water right holders.  Once these new uses have been established, they will represent permanent withdrawals of water, regardless of whether they adversely affect the environment.  Second, and even worse, another part of the bill is clearly intended to overturn the Foster decision, which requires that water withdrawals be mitigated with water.   Foster is a very important control on the use of “out-of-kind” mitigation, which can result in dewatering streams and harm to fish.

The bill does set out processes that are intended to lead to plans (established by watershed planning groups or newly established watershed enhancement committees) for mitigation of well impacts, but its structure creates strong incentives for indefinite delays: any plan adopted would almost certainly be more restrictive than the current situation created by ESSB6091, so that there will be strong pressure to do nothing.

Along with these serious concerns, there is some reason for optimism.  The bill takes a “watershed enhancement” approach and calls for future mitigation plans to offset the impacts of wells on streamflows. As expressions of policy these are welcome statements.   It also provides funding for projects designed to offset the impacts of permit-exempt wells, and at least on paper requires that streamflows be enhanced.  However, as so frequently happens, the devil will be in the details, and the hard work is yet to come.  CELP will be working to ensure that the Department of Ecology’s actions, and those of the watershed enhancement committees, actually benefit streams.

Ecology has announced that it plans to hire additional staff to implement the streamflow enhancement goals of the law.  This is a welcome development.  It has also begun to issue statements offering guidance as to how the new provisions will be interpreted and applied.  How Ecology plans to accomplish the streamflow enhancement goals should become clearer as more guidance is issued.  Ecology will also be responsible for awarding funds to streamflow restoration and enhancement projects and plans to begin accepting proposals this summer.  Careful evaluation of these projects will be critical in order to ensure that real streamflow enhancement occurs.  The work of the legislative task force on out-of-kind mitigation also bears watching, as a “Foster fix” has an even greater potential to impair streamflows.

CELP is cautiously optimistic that a regulatory framework that protects streamflows, fish, wildlife, and other water users can be established.  However, we must be vigilant and carefully evaluate proposals for mitigation of water use, so that the goal of enhancing flows and protecting river/stream environments is actually met.