Governor Appeal to Protect Spokane River (WA) Flows

posted May 31, 2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

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Citizens ask Gov. to reopen agency decision that ignored jobs, tourism, boaters, scenery
 
Spokane – Advocates for the Spokane River are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to grant their petition for protecting all instream values of the Spokane River, including recreational boating opportunities. This is the next step in the citizens’ quest to protect Spokane River flows. A petition was filed in February with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and rejected by the agency in April.
 
“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows sets a dangerous precedent for Washington State’s rivers,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater “Our state’s river face many demands but ultimately we have a collective responsibility for the stewardship and protection of our state’s rivers, and Department of Ecology must protect the diversity of beneficial uses our rivers provide including recreation.”
 
We have joined Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Sierra Club in asking Gov. Inslee to protect jobs, the Spokane River, uphold the law, and avoid embroiling the state in more litigation regarding the Spokane River. Our letter to the Governor reads, in part:
 
"We would like to make it clear that our goal in bringing this appeal to you is to reach an amicable agreement with Ecology to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow rule in a manner that takes into account and protects aesthetic and recreational values, while also protecting fish habitat."
 
The Spokane River is a beloved urban river that flows through the second-largest city in Washington State, including spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge. Conservationists seek a minimum summertime flow of 1,800 – 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to support fisheries and recreation, and protect higher flows for recreation when available. Ecology set river flows at 850 cfs, far below typical summer low flows. This rule could effectively make every year a drought year for the Spokane River.
 
Nearly 2,000 comments, including boater surveys and scenic photographs, were submitted to Ecology during the public comment period on the draft rule. The state agency ignored overwhelming public support for protecting Spokane River flows and adopted low river flows that jeopardize the Spokane River and public uses.
 
The case has statewide significance because Ecology excluded recreation and outdoor recreation-based jobs from its analysis in setting river flows. Annual economic contributions of outdoor recreation to Washington’s economy are about $20.5 billion, supporting nearly 200,000 jobs. Washington’s natural resources should be managed to support outdoor recreation.
 
The governor has 45 days to respond to the citizens’ petition. Petitioners are Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and American Whitewater, and are represented by attorneys Andrea Rodgers (Western Environmental Law Center) and Dan Von Seggern (Center for Environmental Law and Policy).
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012


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