The Columbia River program provides a forum for County Commissioners within the Columbia River Basin to interact, discuss, engage and partner with the Washington State Department of Ecology in the implementation of the Columbia River Water Supply Development Program.

Columbia River Basin Water Supply Development Program

RCW 90.90 was adopted by the 2006 legislature and provides the framework for implementing the Columbia River Basin Water Management Program. It directs Ecology to aggressively pursue development of water supplies to benefit both instream and out-of-stream uses through storage, conservation and voluntary regional water management agreements. Specifically, RCW 90.40.40 stipulates that:

“(1) To support the development of new water supplies in the Columbia river and to protect instream flow, the department of ecology shall work with all interested parties, including interested county legislative authorities and watershed planning groups, adjacent to the Columbia river, and affected tribal governments, to develop a Columbia river water supply inventory and a long-term water supply and demand forecast.”

WSAC is involved in the Program. WSAC also seeks to include designated watershed planning units (under RCW 90.82) and Ground Water Management Units (under RCW 90.44) adjacent to the Columbia River to interact, discuss, engage, and partner with the Washington State Department of Ecology in the implementation of the Columbia River Water Management Program.
Ecology has formed a Policy Advisory Group (CR-PAG), made up of stakeholders interested in water supply issues in Eastern Washington, to advise it on implementation of the Program. County commissioners have four seats on the PAG. The CR-PAG has been meeting since the program was initiated, and has provided valuable insights to Ecology.

As of June, 2016, WSAC’s county commissioner members of the CR-PAG are:

  • Commissioner Paul Jewell, Kittitas County
  • Commissioner Mike Leita, Yakima County
  • Commissioner Wes McCart, Stevens County
  • Commissioner Richard Stevens, Grant County

Participants in the WSAC Commissioners’ Policy Advisory Group

Each member of a Legislative Body from a County in Eastern Washington (defined for these purposes as all counties above Bonneville Dam) may participate. This group is referred to as the Commissioner’s Policy Advisory Group (or Commissioners’ PAG).  Additionally, it is expected that the Washington State Department of Ecology will provide consistent attendance and leadership from the Office of the Columbia River with support from other divisions as necessary.

Specific Objectives and Responsibilities of the Commissioner’s PAG:

  • Help Ecology identify policy issues with implementing the Columbia River Basin Water Management Program.
  • Provide Ecology with perspectives on water-related topics from local government officials elected to govern counties in the Columbia River Basin.
  • Assist Ecology in establishing criteria for ranking and selecting storage and conservation project
  • Assure that the interests of Watershed Planning Groups and Ground Water Management Units are fully represented in a meaningful and integrated manner.
  • Provide guidance and advice to County Representatives representing the Columbia River Counties on a variety of committees including the Columbia River Policy Advisory Group and providing advice to Ecology on implementation of the Columbia River Program and related water issues.

The Commissioners’ PAG meets approximately 4-6 times per year to carry out these tasks.

Neil Aaland provides staff support to counties involved in this Program.  Neil can be reached by e-mail at