April 13, 2016


Trish Rolfe, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, 206-829-8299,
Jean Melious, Center for Environmental Law & Policy,
John Osborn MD, Columbia River Future Project, Sierra Club, 509.939-1290,

“What’s Upstream” focusing on struggling rivers, salmon

Today, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy and the Columbia River Future Project of Sierra Club criticized two U.S. Senators, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) for pressuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to kill funding for a public education effort to protect clean water and rivers. While many rivers in Washington State are damaged by agricultural practices, representative of the controversy is the Nooksack River flowing to Puget Sound.

“It is simply a fact that fecal coliform pollution in the Nooksack River violates state water quality standards,” said CELP board member Jean Melious, an attorney and professor of Environmental Studies at Western Washington University. “We have to be able to talk about unregulated industrial agricultural practices on Puget Sounds’ rivers if we are going to fix these problems and help restore Puget Sound.”

The Nooksack River is located in southern B.C. and northwestern Washington, and flows into the Salish Sea (Puget Sound). Pollution from agricultural operations, as well as illegal water withdrawals in the U.S. have severely damaged the Nooksack River threatening salmon runs while contaminating and contributing to the closure of shellfish beds. A recently released report documents the damaging impacts on Puget Sound from industrial agricultural practices.

In response to water pollution from agricultural practices, conservation groups and tribes undertook a public education effort called What’s Upstream? with funding from EPA. The Washington State Dairy Federation, among other agriculture lobby groups, attacked EPA. Those attacks now are underway in the U.S. Senate, led by Sen. Roberts and Sen. Inhofe.

On April 4, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts issued a statement criticizing the clean water education effort. Both Roberts and Inhofe have written the inspector general of the EPA asking for an investigation.

“Our rivers are in distress,” said Trish Rolfe, director of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “We are disappointed and troubled that two Senators from the Midwest would try to stop efforts to educate Washington state residents about water pollution from industrial agriculture and the simple steps that agriculture could take that would dramatically improve water quality in our rivers.”

“The public needs to know we can have both clean, healthy rivers and responsible agricultural practices,” said John Osborn, a Spokane physician who directs Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project. “We cannot achieve both clean water and food production if industrial agriculture dodges regulation.”

What’s Upstream? Is a project of the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Swinomish Tribal Indian Community, and the Western Environmental Law Center. The goal of “What’s Upstream?” is to inform the public about leading causes of water pollution and how that pollution affects the health of Washington’s waterways, people and fish. The project has been funded wholly or in part by EPA.



What’s Upstream
Inhofe, Roberts request IG investigation of EPA funds on anti-farmer campaign
Agricultural pollution in Puget Sound: Inspiration to change Washington’s reliance on voluntary incentive programs to save salmon
Nooksack Water Thievery Redux