This page is provided as an archive of past information and is not being updated. For current information go to - Columbia River Water Management Program
Columbia River Initiative (CRI) Archive 2002 - 2005
The Columbia River Initiative was Governor Gary Locke’s effort to develop a new water resources management plan for the Columbia River mainstem.
Governor Locke’s Plan
Gov. Gary Locke proposed proposed a framework for issuing new water rights from the Columbia River, while simultaneously improving stream flows for fish populations. Gov. Locke’s plan included:
Documents Relating to the Columbia River Initiative
As part of Gov. Locke’s plan designed to institute a new mainstem water resources management program for the Columbia River, Ecology proposed a draft rule, Chapter 173-565, Columbia River Mainstem Water Management Program. The draft rule language would have established:
Rulemaking Process Suspended
In February 2005 Governor Gregoire suspended the Columbia River Initiative rulemaking process so that the Legislature could have more time to fully and carefully consider the management policies, financial costs and economic benefits of a new water resource management program for the Columbia Mainstem before moving forward with rule development.
As part of the process to develop a new water management plan for the Columbia River, Ecology has prepared a Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Ecology has issued a “determination of significance” and scoping notice for the development of an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA ) for the Columbia River Initiative (CRI).
To assist the public in understanding the range of potential management alternatives a SEPA Non-Project Review document is available.
Part of the Columbia River Initiative proposal would have relied on Best Management Practices as part of a strategy to drought-proof interruptible water rights.
Approximately 330 existing water rights on the Columbia River mainstem were issued subsequent to the adoption of an instream flow rule for the river in 1980. These water rights are interruptible during low flow conditions in order to retain water in the river. Through the CRI rule-making process Ecology has agreed to propose a water use efficiency program that would provide existing water right holders with an option to convert their currently interruptible water right to an uninterruptible water right.
Under the terms of a legal settlement with the Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA), the Department of Ecology agreed to propose a rule that would offer an option for water users, with water rights issued after 1980, to convert their water rights to an uninterruptible status. In order to obtain a water right that is not subject to in-stream flow, the water user must either:
Participation in this water use efficiency program would be entirely voluntary. Water users that choose not to participate would see no change in their existing water rights.
These provisions were included as part of the proposed Columbia River Initiative rulemaking.
Developing Best Management Practices
Ecology and representatives for interruptible water right holders have been engaged in developing the best management practices (BMPs) for agricultural irrigation and city landscape irrigation. A draft is provided below and will be available for further public review as part of the formal state rule-making process.
The roles of Ecology, CSRIA, other government agencies, and other agricultural organizations, in the implementation of this BMP and water right conversion program have not been determined. The program may include assistance and other functions to be performed by local conservation districts, and/or the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
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