Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Spokane River flows, why we got it right

By Director Maia Bellon

A healthy, flowing Spokane River is important to all of us.

The river provides us a gathering place where we play, fish, paddle and enjoy the scenic views. This working river also helps provide power to our homes and manage wastewater from our cities and industry. In 2015, we adopted a rule to preserve and protect its flow while balancing the needs of these water uses.

A recently received petition, requested to amend the Spokane River minimum instream flow rule. After thoroughly evaluating and considering the issues raised we chose to stand behind our strong instream flow rule.

The petition requested we increase the summer minimum flows. Why wouldn’t we do that?

Instream flow rules do not add water to the river, but act as benchmarks to determine if water is available for new uses.

Setting a higher flow number will not result in more water in the river. The Spokane is a complex river system and its flow is influenced by a variety of factors including seasonal weather, groundwater use from existing water rights and operation of hydropower facilities.

We are confident we got the rule right. Using Washington’s water law, we relied on tested, well-established standard methods for setting the instream flow levels.

The rule set specific flow levels and limits future surface and groundwater withdrawals — to ensure there is enough water to meet the current and future needs of people, fish and wildlife.

The Spokane River is a valuable resource for many uses, no one flow is ideal for all.

The adopted flow numbers are based on studies of fish habitat. When establishing flows the law allows us to determine which purposes are most protective of the resource. While the flows are based on fish studies, the rule also protects recreation, aesthetics and other environmental values.

We are committed to applying the existing rule and ensuring sustainable water management for the Spokane River into the future. We’ve already started work to further protect flows in the river and make decisions on new water uses.

Municipal suppliers hold sufficient water rights that are senior to the rule, which is enough to accommodate anticipated growth and development in the region. We are committed to partnering with the community to help manage local water supplies.

A healthy flowing river that provides fish habitat, hydropower and recreational uses is core to the community’s well being. Protecting Spokane River flow is the responsibility of all of us. We are dedicated to local dialogue about sustainable water management for a healthy river now and into the future.

For more information and to read our complete petitionresponse visit our Spokane River instream flow rule webpage.

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