Upper Columbia River - UCRSierraClub.org

The Upper Columbia River Group of the Sierra Club joins with Spokane Urban Nature to support the transfer of 190 acres of forest and meadowland on Thorpe Road west of Highway 195 from the Department of Natural Resources to the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

There are springs and seepages on the hillside and pools and meadows across the basalt top of the area. The Latah Valley with its ever increasing housing developments has few public parks. For that reason, the proposal for the transfer is supported by neighborhood groups and local conservationist groups.

Please send support letters to DNR to dnrtltprogram@dnr.wa.gov and Jeff Lambert at ecojeff@me.com by April 30, 2024. For more information contact Jeff Lambert, 509-999-5100 or ecojeff@me.com.

>>> View talking points, photographs, and further info on the property.

Thorpe Property


Upper Columbia River Group (UCRG) Executive Co. Member Election

Election for Executive Committee members will be online this year for the 2024-25 term. The following persons have been nominated for three open positions:

Kathy Dixon

Retired university professor.  Raised in Spokane, attended Whitworth College, earned her BA and MA degrees from the University of Washington, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. Currently on the UCRG Executive Committee, has served as UCRG Secretary for three terms and currently also serves on the Political and Communications Committees.  Committed to member diversity and inclusion.  Kathy loves to hike, bicycle, cross-country ski, and kayak.

Paige Kenney

Has been involved with the Sierra Club since the mid-1980s when she and her children participated in the "Save the Caribou" campaign.  Served on the UCRG Executive Committee from 2016-2020 and chaired the UCRG Political Committee from 2019-2020.  Represented the UCRG in the 2018 Colville National Forest Plan approval process.  Primary interests: forest health and sustainability, health and adequate flows for rivers, member diversity and inclusion, and member recruitment.

Ernie Robeson

Learned about soils, wetlands, erosion, swales, and ponds early in life from his father who worked for the USDA-Soil Conservation Service.  Did trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail.  BA in Architecture from WSU and had his own firm focused on public works projects, advocating for energy-efficient design and construction. Completed the WSU-Extension Master Gardener Program and served two terms on the Spokane City/County Landmarks Commission.  Primary interests: salmon recovery, organic gardening, regenerative agriculture, old-growth forests, and the role of carbon in our climate crisis.

Additional candidate information will be available on the ballot.

Members will receive ballots by email on or near November 15. Completed ballots should be returned by November 29. Members will need their Sierra Club member number to complete the ballot.  (Questions should be addressed to the UCRG Elections Committee at ucrg.electco@fastmail.com.)

The Sierra Club endorses the following candidates for Spokane City Council

Lindsey Shaw

Ms. Shaw has represented her neighbors in the northeast by serving on the Logan Neighborhood Council.

In our interview with Ms. Shaw, she displayed great curiosity on environmental issues, a quick mind regarding an understanding of them, and a heartfelt statement of support for the local issues of greatest concern, including the flow and cleanliness of the Spokane River and the retirement of the heavily polluting garbage incinerator. She is committed to fighting for environmental justice, which is a serious matter in her district that includes Hillyard. She wonders about the kind of clean up that has occurred in the industrial area across the railroad tracks, and what’s in the dust clouds that settle over Hillyard from there. She noted that development in Hillyard has resulted in an even tinier tree canopy in the neighborhood, as trees are removed willy nilly.

She supports better mass transit for her district. She communicates a strong sense of belonging to her neighborhood, and points out that her opponent, Michael Cathcart, doesn’t even live there. Shaw pledged to keep in touch with UCR-Sierra Club on environmental issues should she be elected. She’s been doorbelling (“I believe I have a connection with my community”), and she’s raised $40,000 of the $90,000 she thinks she’ll need. She points out that Mr. Cathcart lost to Amber Waldref in the recent County Commissioner election. Ms. Waldref is actively advising Shaw’s campaign. Cathcart enjoys financial support from real estate concerns.

Kitty Klitzke

Kitty Kliztke won the primary election in her district. If you add her votes to those of Mr. Herevia, another progressive candidate, the total equals 52% of the vote at final count. Although she has only brought in less than half the $100,000 amount in fundraising that is her goal, she has a strong plan for doorbelling, beginning with the persuadables in the northern part of her northwest district and moving toward the southern, more reliably progressive portion as the election nears. She points out that her opponent, Ms. Moore, has paid doorbellers at $17 per vote, while her own campaign is grassroots. Kliztke is very aware of the issues in her district. She describes the ex-urban and suburban areas as having changed character through development. A big question is how and whether people could easily escape these areas in case of wildfire. These roads are already congested with traffic.

Kliztke has a solid background in environmental advocacy for 20 years. “I worked for The Lands Council, 2003-2007 and Futurewise, 2006-2021. While both  organizations worked to protect the outdoors, habitat, fish and wildlife, I am most proud of my work at Futurewise, which provided expertise to the City of Spokane, Spokane County, the City of Spokane Valley and the City of Millwood to ensure that each had “shoreline master plans that aimed for ‘no net loss of ecological function’ and ‘protected intact riparian areas and public access.’”

Klitzke answered our questionnaire very knowledgeably and shares Sierra Club’s goals in every respect. She wants to “stop irresponsible development and sprawl, focus growth where we have the infrastructure to support it.” She supports “affordable housing for everyone in our city.” She wants to “address climate change and vehicle miles travelled reduction targets. I will work to ensure that we continue to invest in our multimodal and active transportation systems to make greener transportation choices affordable and convenient for everyone.”

Further, she wishes to work “with state and local partners to continue to attract and foster businesses in our region working on green technologies and to support a just transition for workers and low income communities who may be affected as we adapt.” She is aware that “Spokane has inherited a legacy of toxic mining and industry impacts that still disproportionally impact low income communities, tribes, and communities of color. We need to partner with tribes and community organizations to clean up our toxic legacy and make affected communities whole.” Regarding the incinerator, she says, “I will advocate for a new solid waste plan that is better for the climate.”

Paul Dillon

Similar to Ms. Klitzke, Mr. Dillon has achieved about half of his fundraising goal of $90,000. Also similar to her campaign, his is grassroots, with few large donors. “I’m a big believer in the $5-50 contributions.” (His general election opponent, Ms. Katey Treloar, has raised over $110,000 of her $125,000 goal with the real estate industry well represented as donors.) Advisors to his campaign include a campaign manager that worked for Lisa Brown and Marcus Riccelli. Dillon also has a volunteer coordinator and “a robust group of volunteers” for doorbelling, phoning and texting contacts. Dillon expects soon to make a formal announcement of support from his progressive primary challenger, Ms. Donohue. The two of them together accounted for almost 58% of the primary vote count.

Dillon says he is “a lifelong advocate for environmental progress and justice. I’ve been involved with the Spokane Riverkeeper, The Lands Council, Pedals2People, Washington Bikes.” He is the former board president for the Center for Justice and served as a legislative aid for former council member Jon Snyder and Senate Majority leader Andy Billig. “We worked together on numerous policies to help protect the environment, including transportation access and cleaning up the Spokane River.” If elected, he wants to work on the homeless problem, expand affordable housing, and expand our transit network to mitigate climate change.” He supports the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan.

“I am the only candidate in my race to support a development moratorium for Latah Valley, a sacred place.” Living in the East Central neighborhood, Dillon observes that “we have a large Marshallese population and we need to do more outreach on eating fish safely in the river since the majority are monolingual speakers.” He also proposes more city engagement with regional tribal members.

Both Klitzke and Dillon noted the importance of this particular city council election, since the city’s Comprehensive Plan, if properly managed, can provide, in Dillon’s words, “a great framework for smart growth, sustainable development and conservation.” Under this policy, the aging garbage incinerator could be retired.

Special New Outing!

When:   August 26, Saturday, meet at 8am - returning around 8pm:  about 12 hours.
  • Meet:  Grocery Outlet  1617 W. 3rd in Spokane.  We will carpool.
  • Why Attend:   to know the Spokane River - Coeur d'Alene Lake story is to know the story of the West:  nature's abundance, exploitation, and belated conservation. 
  • Who Should Attend:   teachers and students of all ages interested in the story of our home waters.
  • Food & Drink:  Bring snacks and water. We will have a late lunch at the Snake Pit (est 1880) near the confluence of the Coeur d'Alene River's north and south forks.  Dinner will be at the Olympia Restaurant in CDA.
  • Walking?  Total: less than 1 mile, to and from teaching stations.
  • Film:  a film production crew will be filming

RSVP by August 24:  send RSVP to John Osborn MD, osborn1956@gmail.com  Limited to 20.



River History Tours

This tour starts at Spokane House and the confluence of the Little Spokane and Spokane Rivers, ending above Wallace, Idaho, on the history-rich Canyon ("Shit") Creek. Participants will better know the basin before first contact, impacts resulting from Manifest Destiny forces converging here, and recent efforts to recover and protect this watershed. Warren Seyler, a tribal elder and historian, will give the opening talk at the Spokane House.  

Our region's Tribes, especially the Spokane's and Coeur d'Alene's, are central to this story: protecting their ancestral homelands and restoring salmon runs. Fur traders and explorers, religious missionaries, railroad builders, miners, loggers, dam-builders, and real estate developers are also part of this story -- as are local activists who worked to close the timber and mining frontiers.


Restoring Salmon to the Upper Columbia River.  Upper Columbia United Tribes.

The Spokane River.  Ed. by Paul Lindholdt.  UW Press, 2018.

Transitions Journal.  Ed. by John Osborn.  UI Library - 1988 - 2000.

Coeur d'Alene Tribe history

Spokane Tribe history


The Upper Columbia River Group endorses Lisa Brown for Mayor

The Political Committee members were unanimous in our recommendation. Lisa Brown answered our questionnaire thoughtfully and did the same in our zoom interview.  She pledged to include environmental concerns in her transition committee--"those issues will rise to the top," she said. 

The Upper Columbia River Group is seeking nominees for service on our Executive Committee. 

The successful candidates will have an interest or background in environmental activism and enjoy the give and take of working with other activists.  Some of our members have special expertise, but many are simply interested folks who love the outdoors and are willing to work on sub-committees and attend our monthly meetings.  Currently, our members work on behalf of the health of the Colville Forests and the Spokane River as well as the entire Columbia River watershed; other concerns include toxic sludge, climate change, and more.  We are currently ramping up the educational hikes that we call Outings.   We table at various local events (look for us at Spokane Pride on June 10!).  Come join us and find out who your fellow tree huggers are!
The Sierra Club was established in 1892, the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States and Puerto Rico.  The Upper Columbia River Group has a long record of making serious environmental change in Washington State east of the Cascades.
If this opportunity sounds attractive to you, or if you know someone you’d like to nominate, please contact Kathy Dixon at spokaneriverstories@gmail.com
The Upper Columbia River Group also seeks people who would like to co-lead one or more Outings.  Do you have knowledge of outdoor areas in this region?  Maybe you know how to identify plants or wildlife or birds?  Perhaps you have a knowledge of geology or forests or lakes and streams.   At the moment, we mainly offer educational hikes, but if you’d like to help us to expand our offerings (Bicycling?  Kayaking? Fishing?), drop us a line!  Contact Carolyn Leon at lonestar4@aol.com

Our most recent Outing was at Slavin Conservation Area on the West Plains on May 20, 2023.  Our next Outing will be announced at our Meetup site:  https://www.meetup.com/exploring-the-inland-northwest-with-sierra-club/events/293263052/

Upper Columbia Outings - Trees & Water


You are invited to the 9th One River, Ethics Matter (OREM) conference, free, virtual, and open to the public:

September 27-28, 2022 (2 morning sessions)

To Register: https://inside.ewu.edu/orem/

– Indigenous Hosts: Spokane Tribe of Indians and The Coeur d’Alene Tribe with support from Upper Columbia United Tribes.

– Academic Host: Eastern Washington University — Small Urban Rural & Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM)

About: In 2022, with Pope Francis describing abuse of Indigenous people in Canada a “genocide” and Canada and United States negotiating the Columbia River’s treaty and future, this 9th OREM focuses on restoring Spokane River salmon.

For Indigenous people of the Columbia River and its tributaries, salmon were at their life’s center. Destroying salmon was part of the genocide. Against all odds – a genocidal past with a climate-crisis future – tribes have stepped into a leadership role to protect and restore rivers and salmon – and our collective future. Restoring Spokane River salmon is part of this story and our focus for OREM-9.

Today, Indigenous sovereigns are stepping up as leaders throughout the Columbia River watershed to protect and restore fish and wildlife. Tribes, with broad support, are leading efforts to restore salmon above Grand Coulee Dam to spawning waters of the Upper Columbia River, including the Spokane River.

Cultural Release of Chinook Salmon into the Little Spokane River

Cultural release of Chinook Salmon into the Little Spokane River, 2021 (more) Photo couresy of Nick James photography.

The Spokane River was home to one of the most bountiful salmon runs in the entire Columbia River watershed. From time immemorial, Indigenous people gathered at Spokane Falls for the returning summer Chinook Salmon. Salmon remain deeply important for Indigenous culture and sustenance.

Today, however, dams block returning salmon. The Grand Coulee Dam alone cuts off more than 40% of total salmon and steelhead habitat in the Columbia Basin. This 9th OREM focuses on Spokane River Salmon: righting historic wrongs, advancing stewardship, and examining the role of tribes who increasingly give voice to the voiceless: salmon, rivers, and future generations.

OREM – One River, Ethics Matter – is supported by the Columbia Institute for Water Policy and Sierra Club. For more: riverethics.org




The Spokane River and the hundreds of thousands who live near and along this treasured waterway have won a major victory with a federal judge’s approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) agreement to issue a mandated cleanup plan for cancer-causing PCBs polluting the river. The Judge’s ruling culminates a 10-year legal battle waged by Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. The Spokane Tribe of Indians intervened in support of the federal lawsuit to enforce the federal law requiring an EPA clean-up plan after decades of inaction by the State of Washington.  Take a look at the story in Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels blog.


PCBs are dangerous to life including human life because they cause cancer and other diseases.  Tiny amounts in water concentrate as they move up the food chain. For many years, Washington’s Department of Health has issued a health advisory on human consumption of PCB-contaminated fish in the Spokane River.

PCBs are dangerous to life including human life because they cause cancer and other diseases. Tiny amounts in water concentrate as they move up the food chain. For many years, Washington’s Department of Health has issued a health advisory on human consumption of
PCB-contaminated fish in the Spokane River.


PCB manufacture is banned in the U.S.  All PCBs entering the river are from old sources except for one:  Inland Empire Paper Co., which imports newsprint containing PCBs.  The other four government identified PCB dischargers are Kaiser Aluminum, and the Liberty Lake, Spokane County, and City of Spokane wastewater treatment plants. All five entities have discharge pipes that are permitted by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE). Currently the State’s pollution permits contain no limits on PCBs flowing into the Spokane River.  The TMDL (Total Minimum Daily Load) will change how PCBs are regulated in the Spokane River watershed.

The good news of this settlement, however, is not the end of our challenges for a healthy Spokane River. Washington State’s Department of Ecology (WaDoE) has proposed “variances” for polluters whereby they could take extended periods of time with no end in sight to meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act, which we contend defeats the purpose and intention of the Act. Your local Upper Columbia River Group will keep you advised of developments as cleanup efforts proceed.  Watch future newsletters and signup for notifications via our Facebook Page here.

News release:  July 7, 2021

Federal judge asked to compel cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals in Spokane River

Lawsuit filed 10 years ago has not moved government to protect river, community

Link:  Motion for Summary Judgment

Spokane – River advocates are asking a federal judge to rule on their 10-year-old lawsuit to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a cleanup plan for one of Washington State’s most polluted rivers. The Spokane River is heavily polluted with PCBs. The lawsuit began in July 2011, when river advocates notified EPA of their intent to sue on behalf of the river unless EPA complied with federal law. In 2015, a federal judge ordered EPA to come up with a schedule for a cleanup plan. EPA has yet to write a cleanup plan for the Spokane River.

“The days of using the Spokane River as a chemical dump are over,” said Tom Soeldner of the Spokane River Team. “Year after year we waited patiently. Now we are asking the federal courts to stop polluters from flushing PCBs into the River.”

The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires that polluted waters be fishable and swimmable. Although the State of Washington and EPA have been aware of PCB pollution for decades, the Spokane River still does not have a cleanup plan for PCBs.  Washington State Department of Ecology (WADOE) has continued to issue permits to polluters allowing them to dump PCBs into the Spokane River with no controls.

Washington Department of Health has issued a health advisory on PCB-contaminated fish in the Spokane River that has been in place for many years. PCBs have adverse effects on animals and human populations, including causing cancers in humans.  PCBs move up the food chain. Low concentrations in river water result in high concentrations in fish and other river life.

"‘Patience’ is the one word describing river advocates,” said John Allison, a Spokane River Team member. “Year after year we’ve waited. We’ve run out of hope and time with the agencies responsible for the Spokane River. We are returning to the courtroom to ask the federal judge to rule for the river and life.” 

"We need a clean, flowing water for the return of salmon,” said Kathy Dixon of the Spokane River Team. “Salmon along with our children and the river’s life are compelling reasons to comply with federal law and move forward with a cleanup plan.”



PCBs are a group of industrial compounds associated with liver dysfunction and cancer, and are now banned in the United States. Washington State has formally recognized that the Spokane River is impaired for PCBs since 1996. When a river is listed for PCBs, the federal Clean Water Act requires binding cleanup targets before issuing any permits that would add more PCBs to the Spokane River.  Such a cleanup plan has never been completed for the Spokane River, but state and federal agencies have issued pollution permits anyway, failing to include numeric limits.

In 2011, the WADOE abandoned efforts to adopt a PCB cleanup plan, largely because of political opposition by Spokane River polluters, who would be required to reduce PCBs in effluent by up to 99% to meet both Washington State and Spokane Tribe water quality standards. These polluters include Inland Empire Paper, Kaiser, and the Liberty Lake, Spokane County, and City of Spokane sewage treatment plants. Instead, Ecology formed the Spokane River Toxics Task Force and required the polluters to participate, but also gave them control over the goals and activities of the Task Force.

Subsequently EPA issued discharge permits to three Idaho dischargers – the City of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden Water & Sewer District – also not requiring PCB limits and also requiring participation in the Toxics Task Force.

Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) filed a citizen lawsuit against EPA in 2011. The Spokane Tribe of Indians intervened in support of the citizen lawsuit, and the Department of Ecology, Spokane County and Kaiser intervened to defend EPA. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled in March 2015 that EPA’s failure to require a clean-up plan was an abuse of discretion and ordered EPA to submit a plan to the Court by July 2015.

EPA, Ecology, Kaiser, and Spokane County appealed the ruling, but EPA withdrew its appeal and submitted a document (which fails to require a cleanup plan) to the District Court. In April 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Ecology-County-Kaiser appeal in a one-paragraph decision. This meant that the legal challenge to the EPA’s “non-cleanup plan” document could move forward in District Court.

During the past five years, Spokane River advocates have waited patiently for WADOE and EPA to complete a cleanup plan and begin its implementation.  In the absence of a cleanup plan, Sierra Club and CELP are now asking the federal judge to compel a cleanup plan under the law.

Sierra Club and CELP are represented by Marc Zemel of Smith & Lowney, a Seattle firm specializing in Clean Water Act litigation. The Spokane Tribe of Indians is represented by Ted Knight.


Don't smelter our family, our future

for more information on the growing opposition to proposed silicon smelter in Eastern Washington.

Priggee Smelter

Columbia River Treaty, Trump, Trudeau

Treaty dams

Dams, Eastern Washington






Enloe Dam-1

Poll:  4 of 5 voters in Washington value Wild Salmon over Lower Snake River dams

“Washington voters put a strong priority on preventing extinction for wild salmon and understand we can remove the four lower Snake River dams, protect salmon, and make smart investments to replace the modest amount of power that is lost,” added Bill Arthur, Chair for Sierra Club’s Snake/Columbia Salmon Campaign. “It is time for the federal agencies to catch up with the public—and the science—and develop a smart dam removal option as part of the EIS being developed that will keep communities whole and restore sport, commercial and tribal fisheries.


Orcas - Kitsap Sun

The Collaboration Trap

"When environmental groups participate in these collaborations, they provide 'green cover' and legitimize the destruction of natural landscapes, wildlands, and wildlife habitat."  To read full article by George Wuerthner, click here.

Climate Defense Jury Trial

Priggee Oil Trains, Citizen Resistance

To view transcripts from the trial court, June 2017, click on:

To view photos, click on:

"Hirst fix" bill bad for streams, fish, and senior water users.  

Read more:  Democratic majority fails to stand up to minority Republicans and protect rivers and salmon.


Department of Ecology maps showing the proliferation of permit exempt wells in Washington State.  Action by the Legislature, forced by Republicans holding hostage the State's Capital Budget, threatens streams, rivers, salmon.


City of Spokane:  selling off (and selling out) the Spokane River?

City of Spokane staff are preparing plans to sell more water from the Spokane River / Aquifer to outlying communities.  This river is already in terrible trouble.  Overpumping the Aquifer is dewatering the Spokane River during dry summer months, resulting in progressively low flows.

Priggee Goose that laid the Golden Egg

City of Spokane:  don't waver on clean river

Mayor Condon, Spokane River pollution

(the following Letter to the Editor was published in The Spokesman-Review on Nov. 18, 2017) 

PCBs cause cancer, as noted by The Spokesman-Review article, “Pollution limits in Spokane River prompt city officials to seek reprieve from EPA” (Oct 29).

As with radioactive contaminants, there are no safe PCB levels.  Lower is safer.  For our Spokane community, that is true for people who eat fish from the Spokane River.  For our fish-eating indigenous neighbors downstream of Spokane, clean water and PCB-free fish are also essential.

PCBs accumulate in the food chain.  PCBs attach to sediments and eventually end up in fish, river dwellers, osprey – and us.

The city of Spokane is relatively new to the Spokane River.  Water is the basis for life here – including our city.  For Spokane’s mayor to advocate a weakening of protections against PCB-pollution perpetuates a sordid history of river pollution and de-watering that, sadly, is still very much alive within our city government.

We can do better.  We are, afterall, Spokane:  “Near Nature, Near Perfect.”

Our community must hold elected officials accountable for protecting and restoring the Spokane River to health.   Mayor Condon:  just say “no” to PCBs and say “yes” to protecting the Spokane River and life that depends on the river.

Carolyn Leon  |  Spokane

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Salmon extinction, Orca starvation

Orca's need chinook salmon but they're losing them.  Joel Connelly, Seattle PI. November 3, 2017.

Editorial.  A Damming Proposal:  Congressional bill is not a good option.  Eugene Register Guard. July 13, 2017.

Priggee McMorris Rodgers

Do our children have a constitutional right to a survivable climate?

Trump Adminnistration files Hail Mary appeal to derail Youth Climate Lawsuit.  Natasha Geiling. Think Progress.  June 13, 2017

Priggee - kids

Will Dept of Ecology approve Sewage Sludge applied to food-growing lands?

Lincoln County residents fight biosolids on nearby farm.  Jim Camden, Spokesman-Review.  September 27, 2017

Help support organic food farmers of Mill Canyon west of Spokane.  Click here.

Priggee Sewage Sludge

Orca survival, salmon survival --- and dams.

Salmon advocates take to the water to call for dam breaching.  Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune.  September 10, 2017.



Kids' Climate Change Case to Go to Trial.  The plaintiffs include 21 children and  young adults, who argue the federal government has encouraged fossil fuel use despite knowing the dangers of climate change.  Benjamine Hulac, E&E News | Scientific American.  June 30, 2017.

Priggee - Inheritance?

The Hazmat Family adjusts: Forest Fires, Hurricanes, Climate Change

Priggee - Hazmat Family

Houston (Bangladesh, India, Nepal): We have a Problem

Hurricane Harvey was No Surprise.   New York Times.  August 28, 2017

Priggee - Ship of Fools

Salmon & Steelhead:  we have a problem

Steelhead are in hot water - and struggling in record low numbers.  Lynda Mapes.  Seattle Times.  August 18, 2017.

Prigge - Steelhead

End of the Water Frontier:  Washington State

Priggee - Washington thirsty

Fossil Fuels - Burning Forests

Priggee, Smoke, Uncle Sam

Republicans hold state's Capital Budget hostage  - over future of streams

Legislature needs to fix capital budget fiasco - soon.  (Editorial.  Seattle Times. July 21, 2017)

Blockbuster Court Decision protects Instream Flows and may slow Rural Sprawl  (Rachael Paschal Osborn, Naiads blog, October 16, 2016)

Priggee Hirst revisited

The Choice:   Water is Life  -  or  -  Water is Political Currency?

Washington State construction budget held up in dispute over water rights.  Phuong Le / AP.  July 6, 2017.

Priggee political choices

Priggee developers Hirst

Political Corruption threatens Water, Climate

Priggee Revolving Door

Salish Sea/Puget Sound in peril

Priggee Orca help request

Dept of Apology jeopardizes River flows

Issue: When water is flowing in the Spokane River during hot summer months, should the River’s water be protected for community recreational and aesthetic use and river fish and wildlife — or should it be available to be taken from the River by the State Dept of Ecology through the granting of water rights?   More: Rivers need water - for fish and wildlife, our famlies and jobs, our future

Dept of Apology

The 'Spokane 6' - Climate Disruption, Raging Grannies and Veterans for Peace

Three 'Raging Grannies' arrested for blocking oil and coal trains

Veterans for Peace:  Spokane Chapter Blocks Oil Train

Raging Grannies

One River - Ethics Matter:  modernize the Columbia River Treaty.

Canada and the United States need to work together to modernize the Columbia River Treaty - adding "Ecosystem Function" as a third treaty purpose.  

Priggee Treaty negotiations

The Columbia River Treaty is an international treaty between Canada and the United States on governing the Columbia River.  This river treaty was negotiated mostly during the 1950s, excluded indigenous people, and has only two purposes: hydropower generation and flood risk management. 

Two centuries ago when David Thompson, and Lewis & Clark, first stepped foot into the Columbia River and drank from its waters, this River was among the greatest salmon rivers on earth.  Each year salmon by the millions returned to natal forest and desert stream to spawn and renew a great cycle of life. Indigenous people lived with, and depended on the River and returning salmon from time immemorial. 

The dam-building era -- and the Columbia River Treaty -- exchanged the salmon runs for an "organic machine" that generates power and cash.  Given the past wrenching damage and unfolding climate change, the time has come to seek justice and stewardship for the River, salmon, and all life that depends on these waters. 

For more, visit our Ethics & Treaty Project co-hosted by Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

America First! - we'll exploit water on other planets later

Trump's EPA solicits ideas on how Polluters can attack water protections

Priggee Mars Pipeline

March for Science:  Earth Day, April 22

March for Science, Earth Day, April 22 2017

Trump's budget calls for seismic disruption in medical and science research.  Joel Achenbach.  The Washington Post.  March 16, 2017

The Trump administration is ill-prepared for a global pandemic.  Lena Sun.  The Washington Post.  April 8, 2017.

Priggee Trump cutting science

Priggee Trump cutting science 2

Trump dumps federal climate protections, imperils life on earth

Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama's climate-change record  Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post.  March 28, 2017.

Scientists:  US Climate Inaction Imperils Earth.  Jon Queally CommonDreams.  March 18, 2014.

Trump's climate change shift is really about killing the international order. The Washington Post.  March 29, 2017.

Trump Dumps Climate

Orcas of Puget Sound:  poisoned and starving

Plants providing limited wastewater treatment add to risk for orcas  (Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times. March 24, 2017.)

Scientists:  Breach Snake River dams to save Puget Sound orcas  (Associated Press, October 29, 2016.)

Priggee Orcas

Reconnecting rivers and floodplains:  moving people out of harm's way

Healthy Floodplains, Living Rivers  (Future of our Salmon Conference - 2016)


Protecting Coeur d'Alene Lake:  honoring the Coeur d'Alene Tribe

Coeur d'Alene Mining Pollution

Permit Exempt Wells threaten salmon, streams

Blockbuster Court Decision protects Instream Flows and may slow Rural Sprawl.

Permit Exempt Wells

1970 Exempt Wells 2007 Exempt Wells

Maps from Department of Ecology showing the proliferation of "Permit Exempt" wells in Washingon State.  Groundwater and surface waters are connected.  Pumping groundwater depletes stream flows, threatening streams and rivers -- and the life, including salmon and other fisheries, that depends on these waters as well as senior water right holders.

Dam Safety - Crumbling American Infrastructure

Ken Olsen.  Damned if we don't.  The American Legion.

Priggee Dam Safety

 Priggee Dam Safety

Squandering millions of dollars for unbuildable new dams


New Report Debunks Washington’s Dam-Building Program

Over the past ten years the Washington Department of Ecology Office of the Columbia River (OCR) has spent $200 million financed by taxpayer-backed bonds in an attempt to build more dams and increase water supplies in eastern Washington.  OCR is quite adept at touting its achievements, particularly when the legislative budget process rolls around.

However, a new, independent report by Power Consulting of Missoula concludes that the OCR is overstating its accomplishments, and suggests that the Washington Legislature should seek a performance audit of the program before it considers shelling out any more of the public's cash.  Specifically, the Power Report concludes that OCR has:

  • Misrepresented the amount of water that it has actually put to use in eastern Washington,
  • Failed to acknowledge the need for hundreds of millions more dollars to bring current projects to fruition, and
  • Wasted a lot of money investigating proposed new dams that it should have known could never be built.

The report, Department of Ecology Office of Columbia River: The Last Ten Years, examines OCR's decade long agenda of studying dam sites and developing water projects, with in-depth review of the Odessa Subarea water project, the Yakima Integrated Water Plan, and the Icicle Strategy .   The conclusions are eye-opening.

Read full article

Spokane River Advocates pan Toxic Task Force’s Plan

PCB "Comprehensive Plan” no substitute for pollution permits to protect Spokane River

Spokane – Today Spokane River advocates pushed back on claims by river polluters and agencies that a so-called “Comprehensive Plan” completed in early December and unveiled today by the Spokane Regional Toxics Task Force (“Toxics Task Force”) is not a substitute for protective permits required by the federal Clean Water Act.  

“Given the Trump Administration and the change in national environmental direction, it is essential that state and local agencies step up to fill the void for the Spokane River,” said Rachael Osborn a public interest water lawyer volunteering with Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “The Toxics Task Force’s Comprehensive Plan does not do this.”


  • Spokane River Fish AdvisoryAlthough the Plan was created in response to Sierra Club and CELP’s federal lawsuit, the Plan is not adequate to bring the Spokane River into compliance with applicable water quality standards for PCBs.
  • The Plan fails to address new “human health”-based water quality standards for PCBs in water.
  • The Plan identifies toxic sources within the watershed on such broad theoretical ranges as to make the analysis meaningless for cleanup purposes (for example, “Building Materials” are estimated to have from 60 kilograms up to 130,000 kilograms of PCBs).
  • The Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) has already taken a position that prior toxic cleanups that continue to pollute the Spokane River will not be reopened.
  • The Plan is based mostly on pre-existing regulatory actions over which the Toxics Task Force has no control – even as polluters on the Task Force are working hard to block PCB effluent limits from being added to discharge permits.

The Toxics Task Force, largely controlled by the pollution dischargers to the Spokane River, was created in 2011 by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to substitute for a cleanup plan required by the federal Clean Water Act.  Federal courts have already ruled that the Toxics Task Force cannot substitute for a cleanup plan for Spokane River PCBs.

The Spokane River is heavily polluted with PCBs and other toxic chemicals.  For decades, state and federal agencies responsible for the Spokane River have pursued strategies of delay rather than compel a river cleanup. 

State and EPA-issued pollution discharge permits for municipal and industrial treatment plants in Washington and Idaho have failed to include numeric standards limiting the release of toxins into the Spokane River.  The Washington Department of Ecology is overdue to renew those discharge permits.   Polluters who dominate the Toxic Task Force, notably Kaiser, Inland Empire Paper Company, and Spokane County, are pushing hard to avoid numeric pollution standards in the permits that would protect the Spokane River.

After decades of delay by Ecology and EPA to clean up Spokane River's PCBs (some of the worst in the Washington State), and after Ecology abandoned a PCB cleanup plan (TMDL) in the spring of 2011, the local Upper Columbia River Group of  Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) sued EPA under the Clean Water Act.  That case is currently pending before a federal judge.


PCBs are a group of industrial compounds associated with liver dysfunction and cancer, and are now banned in the United States.   Washington State formally recognizes that the Spokane River is impaired for PCBs.  The Department of Ecology issues pollution permits (known as NPDES permits) to companies (such as Inland Empire Paper and Kaiser) and municipalities, allowing them to pollute the Spokane River up to certain thresholds.

When a river is listed for PCBs, the federal Clean Water Act requires a cleanup plan (a TMDL) before issuing any permits that would add more PCBs to the Spokane River.  The Washington Department of Ecology is attempting to sidestep the law by not preparing a PCB cleanup plan, and issuing NPDES permits anyway.

Restoring Salmon Runs in the Snake and Columbia Rivers is now within Reach!


To restore millions of salmon to the Columbia River, terrible damage caused by four dams built in the lower Snake River in eastern Washington needs to be fixed.

Federal agencies are considering dam removal for the first time ever! They are now holding public meetings and taking comments. This is your chance to speak up:

Salmon are a very important species to our region. They feed orcas, provide vital ecosystem services and have been a large source of food and income for native tribes and fishing towns.

Can't make it to a hearing? Comment online!

Upper Columbia River Welcomes You

Help nurture a better inland Pacific Northwest region and world for everyone - people and nature. You are invited and welcome to join us at one of our hikes, meetings, and events.
UCR Region
Our active issues are:
  • Saving the Spokane River
  • Beyond Coal
  • Ethics and Treaty Project
  • Yakima River Future
  • Save Mt. Spokane

Get Involved! is where you can get involved with specific projects facilitated by the Upper Columbia River Sierra Clubr.
Outings is one of the significant ongoing active Get Involved - projects.

The Upper Columbia River Region

The Upper Columbia River Group members live in a geographic area that covers most of most of eastern Washington.

The Upper Columbia River region is the vast watershed of the main stream of the Columbia River the includes it's headwaters hundreds of miles up into Canada, north Idaho and western Montana. The Snake River up to Lewiston, ID and Clarkston. WA and beyond is also a significant part of the Upper Columbia River region.


Our website features the beauty of nature in the greater Upper Columbia River region and issues that can be made much better. As more features are developed they will be listed here.

Slide Shows Of The Beauty Of Nature in the Upper Columbia River Region.

A slide show of the beauty of nature is featured in the our home page slide show. As new slide shows are available they will be featured here.

All our slide shows are listed on the main menu. Photos from the slide shows are also on other pages of the website.

Political Cartoon Archive


Upper Columbia River - Events, Activities & Outings Calendar With Event Location Map

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