Washington Water Watch 
January/February 2016

In This Issue
Water in the Legislature
Dungeness River Litigation Update
WSU Water Plan Falls Short
Columbia River Treaty
Welcome Elan Ebeling to CELP!
Send Us Your River Stories!
Keep Our Rivers Flowing!
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Upcoming Events
March 4
Winter Waters 2016
6:30 PM, Patsy Clark Mansion, Spokane -
Advancing Ethics for Rivers. Join us in honoring Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad and raise money for CELP and our local Upper Columbia River Group-Sierra Club! RSVP to John Osborne at 509-939-1290. 
Buy tickets here.

March 14
One River Conference
8:45 AM, Boise State University, Sudent Union Building. Ethics, Hells Canyon, and the Columbia River Treaty
Free. Register by March 10th.
The Legislative Session is in Full Swing! 

Dear Friends of CELP,

2016 is off to a great start thanks to our loyal supporters like you. We met our Challenge Grant in December by raising over $14,000 in donations, and we hired a new Development and Outreach Coordinator, Elan Ebeling (see article introducing her below). Now our focus shifts to the Legislative Session, and continuing to protect the public interests - your interests - in fish and wildlife habitat, recreational use of rivers, scenic beauty, and drinking water supply for our communities.
In this issue, you'll find an article updating you on Water Resource legislation, a Dungeness River Instream Flow Rule case update, an introduction to our new Development and Outreach Coordinator, Elan Ebeling, new happenings on our efforts to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, upcoming events 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. If you are not a member of CELP please become one today by donating on our website.
Spokane River - photo by John Osborne
Spokane River - photo by John Osborn


Trish Rolfe
Executive Director

P.S. We are always looking for stories and photos of your favorite river to use in our newsletter and social media to help highlight why we protect Washington's rivers. If you are interested in submitting something please send it to [email protected]

Skagit River - photo by Brian Walsh
Skagit River - photo by Brian Walsh
Water in the Legislature

By Trish Rolfe

Water is a hot issue in the legislature again this year, and CELP is currently working on several bills. The short session has intensified the discussions, but limited the number of bills being considered. Most of the bills CELP opposed died at the cutoff including some of the bad Skagit River Bills from last year. Some of the bad bills that died are: 

SB 6537 - Columbia basin bill. This bill allows farmers in the Columbia Basin to avoid compliance with requirements of state water rights permits so long as they comply with federal laws. It would harm instream flows and salmon runs in the Columbia Basin.

SB 6584 - Establishing a proof of water reliance.  This bill provides amnesty for property owners who have obtained building permits in the Skagit after the development of an instream flow rule in 2003. The wells associated with these homes can have a serious impact on salmon habitat, particularly tributaries of the Skagit. The best solution is to develop water-for-water mitigation to offset the impact of new homes. Ecology is currently working toward that goal, and this bill would upend that process.

SB 6551 - Notice of Violation for Discharges from AgricultureLike many similar enforcement programs, the Department of Ecology allows neighbors and community members to maintain anonymity when they report serious water quality violations from agricultural operations. This bill would force the Department to reveal the names and addresses of those who report such violations. There are several documented instances of Ecology staff and others who investigate or report such violations being threatened with bodily harm or intimidated. This bill would have a severe chilling effect on enforcement of water quality laws.
Shellfish beds in Whatcom County - whatcomcounty.org
Shellfish beds in Whatcom County - whatcomcounty.org
HB 2848/SB 6568 - Water Discharge Permit for Confined Animal Feedlots. Large, industrial dairies in Yakima and Whatcom Counties are responsible for discharging large volumes of manure into drinking water supplies and shellfish beds. Local residents have been forced to find alternative water supplies and shellfish beds have been closed. This bill would derail the development of a federal Clean Water Act NPDES permit recently proposed by Department of Ecology, substituting a weaker state water discharge permit for the vast majority of these large dairies. The state permit, unlike the federal permit, does not allow for communities to enforce requirements of the permit nor does this permit provide transparency over farm plans. 

There are also a number of bills that CELP supports or supports with concerns. CELP worked with our allies to make them better by supporting amendments on the floor of the Senate, and will continue to improve these bills now that they are in the House. These bills are:

SB 6179 - Water Banking. This bill would expand the use of water banking as mitigation for domestic wells, and add transparency in the practice of Water Banking. CELP supported an amendment to add language that mitigation water must be "adequate and reliable". Senate passed with only "adequate" language, and we support a house amendment to add "reliable" back.
SB 6589 - Water storage/exempt wells study. This bill authorizes a study that would examine options for storage projects to mitigate development in Skagit basin. CELP supported amendments to this bill that would include Tribes.

CELP also supports:

HB 2430 - Water conservation/low volume plumbing bill. It passed out of the House, and has been heard in Senate Ag Committee where they made substantial changes to the bill and referred it to the Senate Commerce Committee. We will keep working on this bill to make sure it stays true to its intent of helping everyone conserve water.
There is only one bill that CELP opposes this year that passed out of the Senate:

SB 6215 - Concerning certain Municipal water rights.This bill would allow water purveyors to acquire agricultural water rights and then automatically convert them to "municipal" water rights without any review by Department of Ecology to determine whether the original agricultural right was still valid. This bill would allow municipal water purveyors to draw a great deal of water from rivers and streams, harming instream flows and salmon as well as senior water right holders. CELP will continue to work to kill this bill. 
Dungeness River - WA Water Trust
Dungeness River - WA Water Trust
Dungeness River Litigation Update - the River Wins a Round

by Dan Von Seggern

CELP and the Department of Ecology are currently litigating a suit involving the Instream Flow Rule for the Dungeness River, brought by property owners and real estate interests. The Rule establishes instream flows to protect fish and wildlife (an instream flow is a "property right for the river") and requires that new groundwater use that could harm the river be mitigated by providing replacement water. Because this Rule protects the river and its salmon habitat, CELP joined the case as a defendant/intervener in support of the Rule. 

One of the plaintiffs' arguments in the case is that before Ecology can adopt an instream flow rule, it must do the same analysis (termed the "four-part test") that it does when granting a water right, including making a finding that there is water available and that the right would not be "detrimental to the public interest". Instream flows need to be set at levels that are not met in all years, because habitat preservation requires that both high- and low-flow years be protected. Requiring the four-part test to be done would require that the instream flow be no higher than what is present in low-flow years, making it impossible for Ecology to set flows that actually protect a river system. 

Plaintiffs brought a motion for summary judgment on this issue, asking the court to find that, as a matter of law, the test was required and that the Dungeness Rule was therefore invalid. On January 8, Thurston County Judge Gary Tabor heard argument on the motion.  Judge Tabor denied the motion, finding that plaintiffs had not shown that "as a matter of law that the four-part test is always required prior to establishing instream flow appropriations by rule." This means that the case will continue to a full hearing, which will be scheduled for later in 2016.  

Palouse River - WA Dept. of Ecology
Palouse River - WA Dept. of Ecology
WSU Water Plan Falls Short in Many Ways

by John Osborne

Washington State University's plan for protecting its Pullman campus water supply is too optimistic about the potential for storing spring runoff as a supplement to its declining groundwater supply, conservationists say. 

Conservationists have concerns about the draft WSU Water Plan that include:
  • Too much reliance on the possibility of storing spring runoff from the Palouse River underground. A suitable underground place to store the water has yet to be found, and the method has not worked well for other communities in Washington.
  • Lack of water meters on 57% of campus buildings and landscaping. WSU is behind in meeting the state requirement to track how much water is used, and monitor it for leaks. WSU has failed in the 13 years since the Municipal Water Law was enacted to meter all of its service connections. 
  • Lack of a solid water conservation messaging plan, so that students, faculty and the greater community can be part of the solution.
CELP Joins 50 Organizations in Letter to Policymakers on Columbia River Treaty

by John Osborne

Lower Columbia River - WA Dept. of Ecology
Columbia River - WA Dept. of Ecology
Conservation, fishing and faith communities call for U.S and Canadian
government collaboration as an essential step towards modernizing the
Columbia River Treaty to protect the environmental values of this important
trans-boundary river.

Fifty-one organizations and associations from the Northwest region of the United
States and Canadian province of British Columbia sent a letter today to top
policymakers on both sides of the border urging them to jointly develop and share
critical information as an essential step to protecting and restoring the Columbia
River and its watershed in advance of negotiations to modernize the 52-year old
U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty.

Signers of this letter include leaders from conservation, commercial and
recreational fishing, and faith communities. They represent millions of people in
both countries. The letter is addressed to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs
Stephane Dion; United States Secretary of State John Kerry; and British Columbia's
Premier Christy Clark.

"Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to meet the challenges of the 21st Century
must focus on protecting and restoring the health of this important river and its
watershed," said Martin Carver of Nelson, British Columbia. Mr. Carver is among the
non-governmental leaders in Canada working with those in the United States to
broaden the Treaty's current scope to include a new purpose that prioritizes the
protection and restoration of the Columbia River.

                           Welcome Elan Ebeling to CELP! 
Elan Ebeling
Elan Ebeling joined CELP in mid-February as our new Outreach and Development Coordinator. Elan graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011 with a BA in U.S. and African History, and has spent the last five years working with a number of organizations in the Methow Valley and Seattle including Transportation Choices Coalition, SEIU775, TwispWorks Public Development Authority, and City Fruit. Elan is a native of Seattle, where she grew up swimming in Green Lake and Lake Washington, and is passionate about environmental policy. In her spare time she enjoys playing music, singing, and exploring the great outdoors!

Cle Elum River - photo by Jim Cummins
Cle Elum River - photo by Jim Cummins
Send Us Your River Stories!

Do you have a story about your favorite river or stream? We want to hear from you! Please send stories and photos to Elan Ebeling at
"A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself
." - Laura Gilpin, from The Rio Grande, 1949 

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 

CELP's mission is to protect and restore Washington's rivers and aquifers through science-based management of and advocacy for our waters. CELP works through public education, grassroots assistance, agency advocacy, legislative reform, 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.