Department of Ecology News Release - June 30, 2020

State adopts updated Colville River watershed plan

Plan improves streams and provides certainty for development

Deer Creek in Stevens County. Photo: WA Department of Ecology.


A locally-developed watershed plan will protect rivers and streams in the Colville River watershed while securing water for future rural growth.

The Washington Department of Ecology adopted the updated plan last week for Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 59.

Ecology Director Laura Watson approved the plan addendum, which meets the requirements of the Streamflow Restoration law. The plan will bolster streams by acquiring water rights and establishing high-priority habitat projects that are supported by local communities. Sixteen projects are designed to offset the effects of new domestic permit-exempt wells and help keep water in streams for fish. This is the first such watershed plan update to be completed in Eastern Washington, and the third statewide.

“This milestone shows the importance of strong, successful partnerships,” Watson said. “The planning committee not only met their deadline, they completed their plan early and with unanimous support. This update will ensure that there is water for both rural growth and improved streamflows.”

The Colville watershed planning unit is made of up of community members as well as tribal, local, and state government agencies. Over the past two years, the planning unit held 22 public meetings to compile projects that would offset, and in some cases negate, the projected impacts of new permit-exempt wells. Committee members submitted the plan to Ecology far ahead of the statutory deadline of Feb. 1, 2021.

“I appreciate the committee’s dedication to finding water supply solutions for the Colville River basin,” said Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart. “Our community has been working together for years to generate local solutions to meet local needs. Now, landowners can continue to develop their property with the knowledge that they have a durable, legal water supply.”

Residents and local, state and tribal governments have been working on water resource management issues in the Colville watershed for decades. The most recent planning process was conducted under a streamflow restoration law passed by the Legislature in 2018, in response to the Hirst decision. The law helps improve streamflows to levels necessary to support robust, healthy, and sustainable native fish populations while providing water for homes in rural Washington. This update builds on and strengthens the work done in previous planning efforts.

To learn more about the plan update, please visit the Colville River watershed planning unit’s webpage.

Contact information

Keeley Belva
Water Resources Communications
Twitter: EcySpokane