Citizens ask Gov. to reopen agency decision that ignored jobs, tourism, boaters,
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
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
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).