Ctr. for Envtl. Law & Policy v. Dep't of Ecology (Majority)Annotate this Case
The Spokane River originates at the outlet of Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho and flows west for approximately 111 miles to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. Flows in the river have been declining due to increased groundwater use from the aquifer. The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) ceased issuing new groundwater rights from the aquifer in the 1990s. Avista Corporation operated five hydroelectric projects located on the Spokane River in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. The uppermost project on the river, the Post Falls development, consisted of three dams on three channels with natural islands connecting the structures. The development impounded nine miles of the Spokane River to the outlet of Coeur d’Alene Lake. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on Ecology's authority to set minimum instream flows for the rivers and streams in Washington, and the parameters of that authority under RCW 90.22.010 and RCW 90.54.020(3)(a). At issue was whether Ecology properly adopted a rule, WAC 173-557-050, setting a summertime minimum instream flow rate for the Spokane River at 850 cfs (cubic feet per second) from June 16 to September 30. The Supreme Court upheld that rule, determining that the Agency's challengers failed to carry their burden to show the rule’s invalidity. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, which reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the challengers’ suit.