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Washington State Proposes “Water Right” for the Spokane River

Spokane River at Low Flow

As reported in a previous post, the Washington Department of Ecology commenced formal rulemaking to create an instream flow rule for the Spokane River.  Public comments are needed by November 7th, and a public workshop and hearing will be held on October 22nd.

As with many of the Department of Ecology’s efforts, the Spokane River rule is both good news and bad news.   Instream flow rules create a “water right for the river” that prevents allocation of future water rights that harm streamflows.   It is important and necessary that Washington state create such a water right for the Spokane River.

But Ecology has low-balled the proposed instream flow numbers, proposing to protect no more than 850 cfs below Monroe St. dam in summer months.   This proposal fails to give the Spokane River the real protections that it needs.

There are several issues around the numbers Ecology has picked.  First, these flows (which change with the seasons) are not sufficiently protective of the important redband trout fish that live in the river.   Ecology and the Dept of Fish & Wildlife have offered some excuses along the lines of “fish need less water.”  Don’t believe it.

These flows also fail to recognize the Spokane River’s popularity as a recreational resources for boaters.   Ecology engaged in zero research or outreach as to what kind of flows boaters and paddlers need.

Second, Washington and Idaho are slowly building toward an interstate dispute over how much water each state is entitled to use (both instream and out of stream).  By picking low numbers, Ecology is giving away the barn, the horses, the tractors, and the hay.   It is not clear why our state public servants feel they have the authority to make such a giveaway.  Who’s in charge here?  This is an important interstate sovereignty issue that has received no attention whatsoever from Governor Inslee’s office.

Finally, Ecology’s instream flow scientists recently reported on the methods they use to establish instream flow numbers.  The bottom line – in all other watersheds in Washington, Ecology is using very conservative numbers that protect flows in rivers nine years out of ten.   Not the Spokane though, where the flows give 50% or less protection.   Why, particularly given the interstate issues, is the Spokane singled out for LESS protection than other rivers around the state?

Citizens who care about the Spokane River need to get involved.  Keep an eye on this blog and for more information about how to comment and act to protect the Spokane River.





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Columbia Canoe Journey Arrives at Grand Coulee

The “Sea2Source” Columbia River canoeists have arrived at Grand Coulee dam after leaving Astoria, Oregon on August 1st.  Their mission is to paddle to the Columbia headwaters in Canal Flats, B.C.  Along the way, they are educating kids and adults about the salmon that once migrated throughout the entire 1,240-mile river system, and the dams that presently block that migration.

Canoe Journey - Lake Rufus Woods

Sea To Source canoe on Lake Rufus Woods, Sept. 2013

Adam Wicks-Arshack and his fellow canoeists invite interested folks to join them to paddle up Lake Roosevelt, departing from Seatons Grove boat launch on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 a.m. and from Keller Ferry on Sunday, Sept. 8, paddling to Two Rivers.

Next week the Sea2Source canoe journey will travel from the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers, up the Spokane River to Little Falls — the first dam that blocked salmon from migrating up to Spokane Falls in 1910.   Spokane Tribe schoolkids (who helped build one of the dugout canoes) will join the paddle, and some form of public event will be happening toward the end of the week of September 9th.  Stay tuned – we’ll post as soon as we get the date and location.

You can contact the Sea2Source canoe journey at or 917-684-4247.

Follow them on Facebook or the Voyages of Rediscovery website.

The Sea2Source journey needs support.  Your contributions are welcome and can be made here.