Washington Water Watch 
July & August 2017

In This Issue
Legislative Session Recap
Watersheds to Watch: WRIA 29a Wind
Paddling the Reach
Ecology News
CELP is Hiring!
Keep Our Rivers Flowing!
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Upcoming Events
September 28th, 5:30 PM
Healing the Columbia
Mountaineers Building
7700 Sandpoint Way NE
Seattle, WA
Join CELP, Save Our Wild Salmon, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, American Rivers, and Earth Ministry for a special evening of story, reflection and discussion about the Columbia. The evening will also feature a panel who will speak on the effects of the fifty year old Columbia River Treaty on basin communities.
Learn more here.

October 3rd, 8 AM - 7 PM
2017 American Water Resources Assocation WA State Conference
Mountaineers Building
7700 Sandpoint Way NE
Seattle, WA
"The 100 Year Anniversary of the Washington Water Code: Where We Came From and Where We're Going"
Learn more here.
Washington Rivers Running Low in the Last Days of Summer

Dear Members of CELP -
Summer is winding down, and after an historic stretch of rain on the west side of the Cascades this spring, we've had a record stretch of dry days. As a result, most of our rivers and streams are running low including the Chehalis River Basin, where junior water rights holders are being restricted from using surface water until flows improve. It highlights the fact that even in Western Washington water is a limited resource, and situations like this are likely to happen more frequently in the future as climate change impacts our weather patterns. One of the best water management tools for protecting stream flows is to set minimum flow levels by regulation, but m any rivers and streams around the state still lack this protection. That's why CELP continues to work to get Ecology to resume instream flow rulemaking in these unprotected watersheds, and remind them that they are required by statue to ensure that adequate water is available to protect and preserve migrating fish, wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, water quality, and navigation. 

CELP has also spent much of the summer working in the Legislature because there were three special sessions ending in late July. This year Senate leadership made the passage of a bad water rights bill, SB 5239, a requirement for passing the Capital Budget.  CELP worked alongside Washington Tribes and other senior water rights holders to try to find a balanced solution for the impacts of the Hirst Supreme Court decision while protecting fish and other senior water rights. However, no agreement could be reached, and the Legislature adjourned without passing the Capital Budget. There is a lot more work needed in the months ahead to resolve this issue, and CELP will be there because of the loyal support of our volunteers and donors.
In this issue we have an article on the Wind watershed in Southwestern Washington, a summary from the Legislative session, a recap of the Hanford Reach paddling trip, and more.
CELP continues to work tirelessly to protect Washington's freshwater resources and ensure wise and sustainable water management for future generations, but we can't do it alone. We rely on donations from our supporters like you.  Please consider donating a special gift today on our secure website, www.celp.org .  

Stream on the way to Summit Lake 
- photo by Elan Ebeling
Trish Rolfe
Executive Director

P.S. CELP is hiring a part-time Administration and Development Assistant! See the full posting here.

Legislative Session Wrap Up

by Trish Rolfe

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its Third Special Session on July 20th. Many water bills were introduced in 2017, but most died when the regular session came to an end. However, SB5239, the so-called "Hirst Fix",  was debated up until the last day of the Third Special Session, with the Senate Majority attempting to use the Capital Budget as leverage to pass the bill. CELP and many Washington tribes opposed this bill because it would have reduced protections for Washington's rivers and salmon. We worked with leadership in the House and with Ecology to find a compromise that would provide a solution for rural land owners while protecting senior water rights including stream flows vital for fish and other instream uses. Ultimately, the House and Senate could not reach a compromise. The Special Session ended with the Senate refusing to pass the Capital Budget, and SB5239 and all the alternative bills in the House died.
Water management is a complex issue. There is a real   need  for all parties to come together to protect the senior water rights of tribes, municipalities, farmers, and the environment, and help local governments find a solution for rural water needs. CELP will continue to monitor bills in the 2018 legislative session and beyond, and advocate for the adoption of balanced and sustainable water management policy for Washington State.

The Wind River
Watersheds to Watch: WRIA 29a Wind

by Elan Ebeling

WRIA 29a, known as the Wind watershed area, is located in southwestern Washington along the Columbia River, southwest of Mt. Adams. Although the Wind watershed was originally paired with the White Salmon watershed and collectively classified as WRIA 29, the initial planning unit disbanded due to disagreements in 2005. Subsequently, WRIA 29 was split into two separate sub-basin WRIAs, with WRIA 29a encompassing the western half including the Wind watershed and surrounding creeks and streams, and WRIA 29b containing the eastern White Salmon sub-basin area. The WRIA 29a Wind sub-basin includes the Wind and Little White Salmon Rivers, Trout, Panther, Brush, and Rock Creeks, as well as many small tributaries to the Columbia River. These waterways contain populations of Steelhead, Coho, Chum, Chinook, trout, and Pacific lamprey, five of which are listed under the ESA as endangered or threatened.

Although the area is relatively sparsely populated (the largest population centers are the cities of Stevenson and Carson at a combined population of under 4,000), according to the Department of Ecology's 2012 Focus on Water Availability report WRIA 29 is among the most densely farmed basins in southwestern Washington. Furthermore, expected population increases particularly in the city of Stevenson combined with growing tourism from the burgeoning urban centers of Vancouver and Portland have put a strain on the region's water resources.

In addition to the concerns of meeting water demands of a growing population, sufficient water is also needed to protect instream resources. The 2005 Watershed Management Plan for WRIA 29a identified high water temperatures on the Wind River and Little White Salmon River and high sediment deposits throughout the basin as specific impediments to threatened salmon runs. Climate models predict reduced snowpack throughout the region leading to lower summer flows and peak flows occurring earlier in the season, which will adversely affect vital fish habitat.

Read the full article here.

Paddling the White Bluffs section of the Reach - photo by John Roskelley
Paddling the Hanford Reach

On August 12th, CELP Board Member and internationally acclaimed mountaineer and paddler John Roskelley led a 7-person kayak trip through the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River as a fundraiser for CELP. Throughout the trip, the river fluctuated in speed, flowing from 113,000 cu./ft./sec to a high of 137,000 cu./ft./sec.  All in all, a perfect water day.

First designated as a national monument in 2000, the Hanford Reach is part of the Columbia River plateau, and is the last non-tidal, free-flowing section of the Columbia
River in the United States. The Hanford Reach contains some of the most productive salmon spawning areas in the Pacific Northwes t, and is important for sagebrush habitat and dozens of unique plant and insect species. The Reach is also culturally significant to Native American tribes - more than 150 archaeological sites are located within the monument. As the last free flowing section of the Columbia River in the U.S., the Hanford Reach is also an important area for recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and bird watching.
The group - ready to paddle!
Photo by John Roskelley

Earlier this year, the Hanford Reach was included on a list of national monuments whose status was to be reviewed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. In July, however, the Hanford Reach was declared to be among the monuments that will not be diminished or abolished under the Trump administration. 

CELP hopes to make the Hanford Reach paddle an annual event. Stay tuned for trip dates in the future!

News from the Washington State  Department of Ecology

Yakima River
Adjudication of Yakima Basin Water Rights Nearing Completion
After 40 years, the adjudication of water rights in the Yakima River Basin will be soon be completed with official resolution expected in Spring of 2018. The case that prompted the adjudication,  Ecology v. James Aquavella , has resulted in the verification of some 2,500 water rights in 31 sub-basins, the largest water rights adjudication to date in Washington State. Among these are the water claims of the Yakama Indian Nation, which, once finalized, will officially affirm the tribe's water rights. Read Ecology's news release here.

Chehalis River
Junior Water Rights Curtailed in Chehalis Basin to Protect Instream Flows 
Due to dry hot weather in Western Washington, four rivers in the Chehalis basin are experiencing lower than normal stream flows. In particular, instream flows are not being met on the Newaukum and Wynoochee Rivers, and levels on the Chehalis and Satsop Rivers are nearing the minimum instream flow threshold. This has prompted the Department of Ecology to notify 93 junior surface water rights holders that the commercial use of their water may be curtailed. While curtailments don't affect water for home use or livestock, commercial uses like irrigation will be restricted. This instance highlights the need for instream flow regulations in watersheds in Washington State to protect fish habitat and other instream resources in times of water scarcity.  Read Ecology's blog post here.

Mary Verner
Department of Ecology Hires Mary Verner as Water Resource Program Manager
On August 16th Mary Verner started as Ecology's new Water Resource Program Manager. Verner served as the Mayor of Spokane from 2007-2011 and more recently as the  Deputy for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) where she directed the state's firefighting efforts during the 2014-2015 wildfire seasons. Verner has extensive experience in leadership and management of natural resources, and CELP looks forward to working with her on the state's many water resource issues.

CELP is Hiring!
CELP  is seeking candidates to join our team as a Part-time Administrative and Development Assistant  located in Seattle, WA! The Administrative and Development Assistant will work closely with CELP's ED, Staff Attorney and Board to coordinate CELP's membership program and fundraising efforts, and provide administrative and program support for CELP's operations.

  See the full posting here

Protect Endangered Salmon on the Snake and Columbia!

Take action to protect endangered fish runs by telling Washington and Oregon lawmakers to oppose H.R. 3144!

|In June, Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced H.R. 3144, which would prevent federal agencies from taking court-mandated actions to help migrate past the Lower Snake River dams, and would prohibit federal scientists from studying whether or not to remove them. This bill would prevent science-based management of the river in favor of economic interests and would be devastating to the Snake River salmon runs.

CELP encourages our members to join with Columbia Riverkeeper in advocating against this harmful bill.

Thanks for taking the time to read Washington Water Watch!  Thanks to your help, CELP has accomplished much but, as you can see, more needs to be done. You can support our work by making a donation online here, or mailing a check to: 

85 S Washington St #301, Seattle, WA 98104 

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy is a statewide organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore Washington's waters through education, policy reform, agency advocacy, and public interest litigation.

If you care about a future with water, please become a CELP member today!
You can reach us at:  206-829-8299 or  email us .