For Immediate Release (February 26)
Honoring event will launch campaign to protect Spokane River, a test case for rivers statewide
- Tom Soeldner firstname.lastname@example.org 509.270-6995
- John Osborn email@example.com 509.939-1290
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:
- American Whitewater (Thomas O’Keefe)
- ROW Adventures (Peter Grubb)
- Silver Bow Fly Shop (Sean Visintainer)
- FLOW Adventures (Jon Wilmot)
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 *