The Washington Department of Ecology has affirmed its stream flow rule for the Spokane River, denying a petition for reconsideration from the American Whitewater and two environmental groups.
The rule protects fish habitat, recreational use and scenic views of the river, agency officials wrote in a 12-page ruling released Wednesday.
Last year, the agency adopted a summer flow rule of 850 cubic feet per second for the river through downtown Spokane. Each cubic foot of flow represents 7 1/2 gallons of water.
The rule doesn’t guarantee the Spokane River always will have that much water during the summer, but it helps agency officials determine whether the river and its interconnected aquifer have enough water to issue permits for new withdrawals.
The petitioners wanted protection for summer flows in the 1,800 to 2,800 cubic feet per second range. During dry years, the flows wouldn’t reach those levels, but protecting higher flows would help the Spokane River during the rare summers when water is abundant, they said. Those summers occur about once per decade and they coincide with strong fish production and great whitewater rafting, petitioners said.
The petitioners are reviewing the ruling and considering their next steps, said Andrea Rodgers, an attorney representing American Whitewater, the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
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