Chapters 173-557 and 173-555 WAC

Water Resources Management Program (WRMP) for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer and amendment to WAC 173-555-010



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Water Resources
Ecology- ERO
4601 N Monroe
Spokane, WA


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Rule text for WAC 173-557 - New chapter
Rule text for WAC 173-555 (010) - Amendment

Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Judicial Review of Agency Action and an Administrative Rule

On May 27, 2016 Ecology received a petition for declaratory judgment and judicial review regarding the Spokane River instream flow rule adopted in January of 2015. On June 30, 2017 the Thurston County Superior Court issued the order in the Spokane Rule challenge.

If you have questions about this petition please contact, Ann Wessel, 360-715-5215 or by email

Petition to Amend WAC 173-557

On March 1, 2016 Ecology received a petition to amend the Spokane River instream flow rule adopted in January of 2015.  The law governing petitions for rule making is RCW 34.05.330.

After thoroughly evaluating and considering the issues raised we chose to stand behind our strong instream flow rule.

Using Washington’s water law, Ecology set instream flow levels relying on tested, well-established standard methods.

Rule Adoption

On January 27, 2015 Director Maia Bellon signed a new instream flow rule for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer for the benefit of the community and the river.  The rule became effective February 27, 2015.

The purpose of an instream flow rule is to protect and preserve water in streams for “instream resources” including fish, wildlife, recreational uses, wastewater management, and hydropower.  The rule protects river flows and balances the needs of all water users by setting a regulatory threshold to determine when there is water available for new uses.

The Little Spokane River has an existing instream flow rule, WAC 173-555, was adopted in 1976.  Geographically, part of the new rule area overlaps the Little Spokane River rule area.  We amended the General Provision (section 010) of WAC 173-555.  This amendment for the Little Spokane River took effect at the same time as the new rule, and clarifies how each rule applies to new uses of water in the area where the two rules overlap.

Rule Implementation

The rule applies to the mainstem of the Spokane River and those portions of Spokane and Stevens Counties within the boundary of the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.  After February 27, 2015, all new uses of water from the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, including new water right permits and permit-exempt ground water withdrawals, are required to comply with the rule.

Ecology acquired and placed into trust a senior water right for the purpose of offsetting river impacts from the few new domestic wells expected in the rule area.  This water right is as a water bank to allow uninterruptible water for new permit-exempt domestic use.

Rule Adoption Documents and Timeline

For the general rulemaking steps required in state law:

All of the documents prepared as part of this rulemaking, including public comments and Ecology responses, are located here:

Email Notices (ListServ)  Sign up on an electronic mailing list to receive email information and notices about implementation of the new Spokane River rule: