Nov. 2020
Washington Water Watch
Trish Rolfe
Executive Director
Dams in the News
Dams, and how they harm rivers and fish, have recently been receiving more attention than ever. Here are some updates about dams that have been removed, dams that will be removed, dams that should be removed, and a dam that should not be built.

This summer two dams were removed in Washington. The City of Snohomish’s Pilchuck River dam near Granite Falls was taken out with help from the Tulalip Tribes, which partnered with the city to remove the dam. The dam became obsolete when the city started getting its water from Everett more affordably. Endangered salmon and steelhead now have access to more than 37 miles of pristine habitat. Find updates, and follow the river’s recovery, here.

Another water supply dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River was removed in July after years of advocacy from the Nooksack Tribe and Lummi Nation. The dam was built without legally required fish passage in 1961 and was used to supplement the city of Bellingham’s water supply. Efforts to restore fish passage stalled until 2017 when more partners joined to push for dam removal and helped to fund the project. Now the Middle Fork flows freely again, and 16 miles of pristine spawning habitat is open to fish for the first time in almost 60 years. You can read more about the project here.
Of course, we can't fail to mention the Elwha river dam removals, which are still the biggest dam demolition project in the United States. Two dams on the Elwha, the Elwha Dam and the Glines Canyon Dam were removed. When the last piece was removed in 2014, the 45-mile-long river finally flowed freely.
Six years later, what have we learned about river recovery? The Elwha has made a remarkable return to a more natural state. Sediment behind the dam slowly moved down the river and created new beaches and wetlands at the mouth of the river. Native plants are returning to the former reservoir lakebeds with the help of huge revegetation and restoration efforts. The Lower Elwha Tribe played a huge part in dam removal and has continued to play a huge part in the restoration. The tribe also recovered access to important creation and archaeological sites. Animals are returning to riverbanks.
Record numbers of chinook smolts have been recorded as well as the highest returns of adult chinook since the late 1980s. While the chinook have been returning, fewer are colonizing the uppermost parts of the watershed and scientists are trying to figure out why. Check out more of their studies here. Summer steelhead runs, which were nearly extinct in the Elwha before dam removal, are increasing. Pink and chum salmon are still struggling to recover, however the Elwha dam removal and river restoration provide hope: “The Elwha River is recovering and provides an excellent example of ecosystem restoration”- Sam Brenkman, Chief fisheries biologist for Olympic National Park. Read more here.

We know restoring a river has great ecological benefits and opens habitat for endangered salmon species. Restoring a river can also benefit communities, tribes, and the economy. Because of these benefits, there has been growing pressure to remove more dams. Here are some updates on efforts to demolish more Northwest dams
The four lower Klamath River Dams:
In a huge development, an agreement was announced on November 17th reviving plans to remove the four dams on the lower Klamath River. The Klamath River is 257 miles long and flows through Oregon and northern California, and historically produced large salmon runs. The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, opening hundreds of miles of waterway and salmon habitat that has been blocked for more than a century. The Klamath River Renewal Corporation, a nonprofit entity providing the funds, will oversee the dam removal. The new agreement adds $45 million to the project's $450 million budget. The additional funds will be provided by the now equal partners in demolition Oregon and California and the utlitiy group which operates the hydroelectric dams, PacifiCorp. This massive dam removal project would not be possible without the advocacy, leadership, and partnership from the Yurok and Karuk Tribes. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must approve the deal before the project moves forward; however, it looks like the Klamath is finally on the road to recovery.
Enloe Dam
Enloe Dam:
The Enloe dam on the Similkameen River in North-Central Washington hasn't produced power in almost 7- years and completely blocks fish passage. Along with local partner groups, CELP has fought for over a decade against attempts to re-electrify the dam. After several court cases and years of litigation the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) ultimately decided to not pursue the project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission terminated the PUD's license.
Removing the dam will open more than 340 miles of habitat, and there is broad agreement that Enloe must go. Even the Outdoor Recreational Council of British Columbia is lobbying its government to speak formally with Washington State and the U.S. federal government about removing the dam. Check it out here.
Now the questions are not whether to remove the dam, but how to remove it properly, at what cost, and who pays for it. Sediment behind the dam is a concern and we are all waiting for results from sediment studies to figure out the best path forward. Read more about the dam history and obstacles to removal in this great article by Lynda Mapes at the Seattle times here.
CELP will be working with stakeholder groups to ensure the dam is properly removed and the Similkameen River is once again free-flowing.
Electron Dam:
The Electron Dam on the Puyallup River is 116 years old and has challenged fish survival from the beginning. The river’s steelhead trout, chinook salmon and bull trout are listed as endangered species. Despite the importance of the Puyallup's salmon runs, fish ladders were not added until the 1990s. The Puyallup Tribe for decades participated in negotiations with the different dam owners.
This summer construction on a bypass channel began, making the fish ladders inoperable and further imperiling salmon runs. Worse yet, during construction of the bypass channel, rubber crumbs from thousands of yards of artificial turf (illegally used in the channel work) washed into the river and spread for miles. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered a stop-work order on the construction process and mandated cleanup. In the beginning of October, the Puyallup Tribe announced an intent to sue Electron Hydro for violating the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. You can read more here.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Citizens for a Healthy Bay also announced their intent to sue over pollution from Electron Dam. Read their Notice of Intent to Sue Letter here.
Groups including Pierce County have called for removal of the dam. We believe there is a clear and strong case for removal and are hopeful for the future of the Puyallup River.
Proposed Chehalis River Dam:
Finally, despite the clear evidence that dams harm rivers and their removal has widespread benefits, there are still proposals to build more dams. A proposal has been developed for a flood control dam on the Chehalis River, ostensibly to protect Centralia and other downstream areas from flooding. But this dam would not provide effective flood control and would have unacceptable impacts on Chehalis fish runs. The state process has been paused over concerns about the environmental impacts, with Gov. Inslee directing the Department of Ecology and the Chehalis Basin Board to explore alternatives to the dam. However, the federal process is still moving along. The Army Corps of Engineers draft environmental impact statement closed for comment on November 17th. We are waiting to hear where this process goes.
In a time of historic dam removal agreements and river restoration, building any dam on the Chehalis River would make no practical, environmental, or economic sense, and would violate Washington's legal obligations under treaties with Indian nations, which have the status of federal law, and the Endangered Species Act. Instead, the state should foster wetland restoration and other resilient designs to make the floodplain safer for people.
Winter Workshops
Our all day winter Continuing Legal Education workshop is being transformed into three, 2 hour afternoon workshop sessions. Whether you need your CLE credits or you want to learn more about environmental policy, water law, and tribal rights we have a great line up of speakers and topics for everyone.

When: Dec 1st, Dec 3rd, Dec 7th
Where: Virtually on Zoom

Tuesday Dec. 1st: Water Trading and Speculation - Register
Thursday Dec. 3rd: River Basin Adjudications and Tribal Rights - Register
Monday Dec. 7th: Climate Change and Water Rights - Register

Each workshop registration page includes an all-inclusive ticket option to attend all 3 workshops at a discount.

$50/session or $120/all 3 workshops
CELP Members
$45/session or $108/all 3 workshops
$25/session or $60/all 3 workshops
Water Stories
Check out our newest Water Stories.

"Since undergoing back surgery in January 2020, my husband Merlin and I have started a weekend tradition of a walking or hiking adventure that always involves water as it is healing and restorative to my soul. We have traveled from the Spokane River to Palouse Falls and as far as the mighty Columbia in our many adventures."- Michelle Magers

"As I've grown into an adult, the role of water in my life has evolved into something I appreciate in a sacred way. Water has become the place where I think and reflect on my journey and in what direction I want to travel next."- Nicole Harris
Share you story. Send a couple paragraphs on the role of water in your life and its significance with some photos of you (and water) to Don't forget to tell us your favorite watershed in Washington.
Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday is a global day of generosity and online giving that will take place on December 1, 2020.

This year a loyal donor has offered to match our Giving Tuesday donations up to $5,000! Help us protect waters in Washington now, for fish, and for future generations.
Lower Columbia River, Estuary: “One River, Ethics Matter” Conference
7th annual conference on ethics and the past and future of the Columbia River
River of Time: From Canoes to Freighters to 2160 and the 7th Generation
Overview: This seventh annual “One River, Ethics Matter” conference will be held during the COVID-19 pandemic by video conference. On December 9, 10 we will focus on the lower Columbia River / Estuary and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.
Combining the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and medical-ethics consultation tools, our first six “One River, Ethics Matter” conferences have looked upstream in the Columbia-Snake River system at harms from the Basin’s dam-building era and Columbia River Treaty. With the help of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, this 7th river ethics conference will look downstream to the Columbia River Estuary – generally the river below Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean.
More information here.

Tribal host: Cowlitz Indian Tribe
Academic host: Washington State University, Collective for Social and Environmental Justice

When: Dec 9-10
Where: Virtually on Zoom
Registration: Free
85 S Washington St #301,
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 829-8299
Thanks for taking the time to read Washington Water Watch! With your help, CELP has accomplished many victories, yet more work remains to be done. You can support our work by making a donation online here, or mailing a check to: 84 S. Washington St #301 Seattle, WA 98104.