Columbia Water Partnership (2005)

This page is provided as an archive of past information and is not being updated.  For current project information go to - Columbia River Water Management Program

The Columbia Water Partnership is an ongoing effort to work with Tribal, Federal, State and local governments, farmers, environmental groups, municipalities, and other stakeholders to develop a long-term approach to water allocation from the Columbia Mainstem.

Components of the partnership include:

  • The Columbia River Task Force is a joint legislative/executive group that is examining policy alternatives for Columbia River water allocation, and
  • Ongoing work to negotiate cooperative agreements with Tribal and Federal partners to obtain water for in- and out-of-stream uses.

Governor Gregoire Signs Columbia River Water Resource Management Legislation

Background

Ecology has been studying whether additional water can be diverted from the Columbia River for off-stream uses that support the state’s economy without adversely affecting endangered salmon runs.

Currently, new water-right decisions are subject to determinations made in consultation with state, federal and tribal fish agencies as well as affected counties and cities. Recent court proceedings have shown the consultation rule to be “unworkable.”

Ecology also has been studying ways to support water rights that can be interrupted during drought years or during periods of low flow crucial to the survival of salmon. There are approximately 300 junior water rights that may be subject to interruption during low flows on the Columbia River.

An analysis conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), (released in March 2004), along with an economics study prepared by the University of Washington (released in December 2003), were commissioned by the agency to help in the crafting of a new management program for the Columbia River.

The NAS report cautioned Ecology on allowing new water withdrawals from the Columbia River during low flow periods. The economic report predicted new withdrawals could result in substantial economic growth for the region.

After reviewing the NAS science report and the water use economics study, and gaining input from interested stakeholders, Gov. Gary Locke proposed a plan to institute a new water management program for the Columbia River mainstem called the Columbia River Initiative. After hearing that some stakeholders and elected officials had concerns about the CRI proposal, Governor Christine Gregoire suspended work on implementing the legislative and rule-making efforts associated with CRI and convened the Columbia River Task Force, a joint Legislative / Executive group, to consider policy alternatives.