Columbia River Caucus
The Columbia River Caucus 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 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 90.90.020 stipulates that the primary foci for the Program are:
“(3) The department of ecology shall focus its efforts to develop water supplies for the Columbia river basin on the following needs:
(a) Alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa subarea aquifer;
(b) Sources of water supply for pending water right applications;
(c) A new uninterruptible supply of water for the holders of interruptible water rights on the Columbia river mainstem that are subject to instream flows or other mitigation conditions to protect streamflows; and
(d) New municipal, domestic, industrial, and irrigation water needs within the Columbia river basin.”
WSAC has been involved in the Program since its creation. 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 a broad group 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 CR-PAG. The CR-PAG has been meeting since the program was initiated and has provided valuable insights to Ecology.
As of February 2019, WSAC’s county commissioner members of the CR-PAG are:
- Commissioner Mark Stedman, Lincoln County
- Commissioner Mike Leita, Yakima County
- Commissioner Wes McCart, Stevens County
- Commissioner Richard Stevens, Grant County
Four alternates have been appointed to participate in CR-PAG meetings when the regular members are not available. These alternates are:
- Commissioner Jerome Delvin, Benton County
- Commissioner Ron Anderson, Yakima County
- Commissioner Doug Englund, Chelan County
- Commissioner Scott Hutsell, Lincoln County
Participation in the Columbia River Caucus
Each member of a Legislative Body from a County in Eastern Washington (defined for these purposes as all counties above Bonneville Dam) may participate in the Columbia River Caucus. Typically, member counties designate one commissioner per county to participate. 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.
- 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 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 email@example.com or by phone at (360) 791-8905.