Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Water and Salmon Committee


Next Meeting: Monday, October 20, 7-9 p.m. Location: Office of the Washington State Chapter (Sierra Club, 180 Nickerson Street, Ste. 202) This meeting is open to all Sierra Club members.

Would you like to know which river basin you live within? Go to www.inforain.org/watershed.

WATER AND SALMON MISSION STATEMENT: To promote stewardship and responsible management of water in order to ensure its availability to sustain the natural balance between people and the environment.

Please join us, assisting with one of the programs outlined below. Following are presentations of currently active programs and proposed programs deemed important by the Committee each of which needs a leader.

In order to be considered for committee membership, you must meet two requirements: you must be a Club member and you must become actively involved in a committee project or program. Thanks.

Presented below our Active and Proposed Programs and Current Campaigns 



1. POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE (Contact: Pat Sumpton, patsump@juno.com)

We affect legislation of concern to the Club related to the Committee's mission. If you are the type who likes to be involved in legislative matters with the Washington State Legislature and the Governor. Contact Pat to see how your talents can be put to use.


2. MARINE ECOSYSTEMS (Contact: Laura Hendricks)

The Water and Salmon Committee has developed an Aquaculture Policy designed to protect the valuable natural resources in Puget Sound and off the coast of Washington. Associated with the policy, we have created a brochure that further defines the issues relating to unregulated expansion of the aquaculture business in Washington State. Contact marine@washington.sierraclub.org for further information.

Farmed salmon are threatening the health of wild salmon around the world (including British Columbia). To better understand the issues, please view the "Farmed Salmon Exposed" video provided by the Pure Salmon Campaign.

Marine debris is unfortunately a by-product of all forms of aquaculture. Plastics and PVC are used extensively in shellfish aquaculture and they contribute to debris issues in Puget Sound. You can help document the amount of debris using the Marine Debris Tracker. The Marine Debris Tracker mobile application allows you to help make a difference by checking in when you find trash on our coastlines and waterways.



The Community Rain Garden Project informs students and community members about stormwater and the problems that stormwater runoff generates, and the benefits that rain gardens provide in mitigating stormwater problems. The Community Rain Garden Project promotes and builds collaborative partnerships that install rain gardens on private and public properties.

Rain Gardens:

  • Help restore natural hydrologic processes
  • Designed to receive rainwater and enhance infiltration
  • Rainwater that can be infiltrated through a rain garden falls on roof tops, driveways, sidewalks, and streets
  • Filter contamination out of stormwater before is discharges to natural water bodies

We have helped with the installation of rain gardens at two area elementary schools. On May 4, 2009, around 100 students from Montlake Elementary School in Seattle installed the first rain garden in the Seattle Public Schools District. Rain gardens slow stormwater runoff and remove nutrients from the runoff that are taken up by the plants. The project was a joint effort of Seattle Public Schools, the Community Day School Assn. at Montlake Elementary, and the Sierra Club's Washington State Water Sentinels. View a video here.

On June 8, 2012, local Girl Scouts helped install a rain garden at Columbia Elementary in Mukilteo with the help of volunteers from the Snohomish Conservation District. In addition to planting the rain garden, the girls also rotated though five stations designed to help them better understand why rain gardens are beneficial. At the stations, the girls helped mark storm drains, conducted an experiment that explains how rain gardens work, painted plant markers and learned how to collect rain data. View some great pictures here.

For more information about the Community Rain Garden Project, click on the links below:

In addition to Rain Gardens, Storm Water Runoff is another important issue.We can all help reduce runoff and pollution with simple RainWise practices. Check out the Seattle Residential RainWise Program.


4. DEFENDING WATER IN WASHINGTON (contact Rebecca Wolfe: rr.wolfe@comcast.net). The bottled water industry is aggressively promoting bottled water. In the U.S., more than 30 billion plastic water bottles end up as garbage or litter each year. Most don’t get recycled. The bottles take up to 1,000 years to decompose and contribute to the vast vortex of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean, which is harming wildlife.

Disclaimer: The following web links represent some of our allies in the effort to defend water and defeat the privatization of water for profit. However, the views and positions of our allies may not represent the policies, principles, or positions of the Sierra Club. Please visit their websites and learn more about the issues on which we're working.

Plastic for drinking containers as well as thousands of other uses is resulting in huge environmental damage. View the the presentation "Bottled Water -- Do we need it?" and learn more about the issues.

The withdrawal of large quantities of water from springs and aquifers for bottling has depleted household wells in rural areas, damaged wetlands, and degraded lakes. It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water. Please see the following for more information:

In late March and early April of 2010 the City of Everett was prepared to sign a contract with Tethys Enterprises of Marysville, WA, to build a one-million-square-foot plant “for water intensive purposes,” using water from the Sultan Watershed. The Sultan Watershed provides water for over 50 water districts, most of which comes from Spada Lake.

Tethys Enterprises was seeking a 30-year commitment from the City for 5 million gallons of water a day. After our Sierra Club efforts succeeded in helping defeat Tethys’ bid for Snohomish County’s water, Tethys went to Anacortes, Washington in pursuit of water from the Skagit River (again, 5 million gallons per day for 30 years). With no public process or public disclosure until just a few days prior to the approval date for this contract, the Anacortes City Council voted to approve the Tethys contract. Now we are helping organize citizens in the Skagit Basin to defend water. Our efforts include education, outreach, and consultation with community leaders who care about defending water for life. Please contact Rebecca Wolfe (rr.wolfe@comcast.net) for ways to get involved. We are learning together in our efforts on “Defending Water for Life” and we would welcome your participation.

Nestle eyes Columbia Gorge spring to bottle water. Nestle's latest proposal for its first Northwest bottling plant is for Cascade Locks, in the verdant Columbia Gorge, where the logistics appear favorable -- and the reception has been anything but hostile.

Taxpayer dollars are wasted on bottled water and its effect on public water systems. See the report titled Getting States Off the Bottle from Corporate Accountability International.


5. COLUMBIA RIVER FUTURE (contact: John Osborn john@waterplanet.ws)

The historic, massive hydrologic re-engineering of the Columbia River via dams and irrigation projects transformed the world's greatest salmon river into what historian Richard White has described as "the organic machine". In 2006 Washington State enacted a new law to "aggressively pursue" new dams and other water projects, unleashing a small army of dam planners in the state's part of the Columbia River watershed.

In response to the latest onslaught of new dam proposals in eastern Washington, Sierra Club has undertaken the Columbia River Future Project: in the face of climate change, the future of the Columbia River rests with sensible and affordable water solutions.

Given the costs of maintaining our nation's existing dams (and the billions of dollars in backlog maintenance), solutions to water scarcity in the Columbia River watershed will be with addressing water demand through adopting stringent water efficiency standards, metering water use, transitioning to appropriate crops, and aggressively implementing water conservation measures. On the water supply side of the equation, the water supplies will be enhanced by protecting forested watersheds, restoring floodplains, and (where appropriate) storing water in low-impact storage projects such as aquifer recharge.

Current conservation advocacy for the Columbia River and its tributaries include:

  1. Yakima River (link)
  2. Similkameen River (link)
  3. Columbia Basin Irrigation Project (link)
  4. Columbia River Treaty (link)

We are also providing support for the two active Sierra Club Groups in eastern Washington:

  1. the Upper Columbia River Group's work to restore and protect the Spokane River (link), and
  2. the Palouse Group's work to protect the community's drinking water in challenging WSU water rights relating to is golf course (link)



Marine species that are vulnerable, usually need some form of habitat protection. Protection can be applied through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or through Marine Reserves (MR) as well as traditional management regulations like we see for commercial and recreational fisheries here in Washington. Unfortunately, in Washington, traditional management protections for our fisheries and the use of MPAs have failed to protect the populations of many desirable and vulnerable marine species. Washington now leads the continental United States in having the most endangered species and the most depressed fisheries in North America.Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (WDFW) created the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan that includes MRs and MPAs (called Rockfish Conservation Areas). This plan is especially significant since it is the first genuine steps taken by the state to protect areas of critical habitat within Puget Sound. It is also the first step toward Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) of our marine resources. Next, the Washington state legislature passed the Marine Spatial Planning Act. Then WDFW, SeaDoc Society and NOAA convened a Rockfish Workshop in Seattle. There is no website specifically for the workshop but SeaDoc Society has a recap.Currently there are three publications of significance for creating a network of MRs within Washington and Puget Sound. (We can provide links to each of these.)

  1. Lubchenco, J. et al 2007. The Science of Marine Reserves. Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans. Second Edition. PISCO. 22pp. Available at www.piscoweb.org
  2. Sobel, Jack and Craig Dahlgren. 2004. Marine Reserves. A Guide to Science, Design, and Use. Island Press, Washington. 383pp.
  3. Fletcher, James 2009. Restoring Puget Sound through the use of Marine Protected Areas. Wild Fish Journal.2009, p24-32. 20th Anniversary Edition. http://wildfishconservancy.org/resources/publications/2009WebNewsletter.pdf/view

Although no website is specifically dedicated to MRs for the state of Washington, there is ongoing work creating such a website.

Benefits, Results and Challenges of Marine Reserves. Creating a network of marine reserves is a complex issue with many different interest groups of people. Usually the network of Marine reserves amounts to 15 to 20% of the total management area and a small portion of each fishing hotspot which are coincidentally biodiversity hotspots. Considerable resistance nearly always comes from recreational, artisan, commercial and tribal fisherman because a marine reserve is a collection of areas completely closed to all fishing. Often these are their favorite fishing hotspots and a closure is frightening since they usually already know the fisheries are depressed and they will immediately catch fewer fish – at least in the short term.

Unfortunately, the state of Washington has the greatest number of endangered species of any state or province on the maritime coast of North America. Also according to the American Fisheries Society, the state of Washington has the most depressed or overfished fisheries in the continental United States. A huge body of evidence has now accumulated that shows Marine Reserves are the most straightforward and most cost effective means to restore overfished fisheries. Fish species living within a Marine Reserve become old, large and are incredibly fertile since reproductive potential in aquatic and marine ecosystems is a function of body size. Compared to smaller fish outside the reserve (where fishing generally takes the largest specimens) old large fish inside a Marine Reserve produce incredible numbers of offspring, which disperse from the reserve and restore an overfished fisheries. Marine reserves also create a trophy fishery around the edges of the Marine Reserves. A network of Marine reserves also re-creates near pristine complete ecosystems and gives fisheries management professionals a benchmark to gauge whether management protocols are working. Consequently we must understand that with the restoration potential marine reserves provide to our fisheries, the principal objective of marine reserves is fisheries restoration. There will be more fish available for all fishermen after an ecosystem recovery period for a network of marine reserves. It would appear, as a judgment call, a network of marine reserves will eventually produce 4 to 7 times more fish than exists now. For a more complete listing of the Benefits Results and Challenges of Marine Reserves, with scientific citations, click here.



Marine Species Threatened with Extinction by Ocean Acidification. Adding carbon to the atmosphere contributes to global warming and climate change. Another less-discussed impact is ocean acidification—whereby carbon molecules diffuse into the ocean from the atmosphere, causing a steady rise in acidity—even though the impacts are already being felt by many species.

Australian experts link carbon dioxide emissions effects on fish brain and nervous system. Rising human carbon dioxide emissions may be affecting the brains and central nervous systems of sea fish, with serious consequences for their survival, according to Australian research.

Elwha River Restoration: For the latest Elwha news, including photos, project updates and ‘countdown’ events, visit the National Park Service site or interact with ‘Elwha River Restoration’ on Facebook.

Water Map. Governments should to invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with "natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains. See the article Water map shows billions at risk of 'water insecurity' for more information.

Factsheets. The Sierra Club Toxic Factsheets cover information on a number of issues. Check out "Consumer Products Threaten Aquatic Life: What You Can Do" for great information on aquatic issues.

Toxic Waters. The New York Times published a story titled Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering. In this story, they indicated that "research shows that an estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways." See a video titled Toxic Waters: Coal in the Water where Jennifer Hall-Massey of Prenter, W.Va., explains how water pollution, which she believes is caused by nearby coal companies, has impacted her family and community.

Acidic Oceans. With the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, acid levels in the oceans have been rising, which in turn could harm many marine animals including shellfish and corals. "Care2 make a difference" has a good blog outlining the issues.

Healthy Watersheds. The Washington Department of Ecology has published a report titled "Working for Washington's Future: Healthy Watersheds, Healthy People" that provides valuable information our watersheds and their relationship to our health.

Low Impact Development. The 30-minute film, "Reining in the Storm -- One Building at a Time", is about Low Impact Development (LID) in Virginia but the lessons learned could help protect water quality anywhere it rains.

Water Footprint Manual. The Water Footprint Network's Water Footprint Manual is open for public comment through the end of May 2010. The Manual covers a comprehensive set of methods for water-footprint accounting. A Water Footprint Calculator is also available so you can assess your own unique water footprint.

Interactive Map of Eutrophication & Hypoxia. This map represents 762 coastal areas impacted by eutrophication and/or hypoxia. There are 479 sites identified as experiencing hypoxia, 55 sites that once experienced hypoxia but are now improving, and 228 sites that experience other symptoms of eutrophication, including algal blooms, species loss, and impacts to coral reef assemblages.

Beef. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEEF reveals beef's environmental impacts.

City Water Supplies. The Ten Biggest American Cities That Are Running Out Of Water.

Stormwater in Seattle. Storm water discharges are generated by runoff from land and impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops during rainfall and snow events that often contain pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect water quality.

For more information and a quiz to test your knowledge, go to Stormwater Services and Information.

Attack of the Fish-Shredding Coal Plants! It sounds like the beginning of a horror movie, but it’s all very real. In too many of our waterways around the country, billions of fish are getting chopped up and spit back each year. No river, stream or ocean is safe -- if there is dirty coal-fired power plant nearby. See details here.



None at this time.


None at this time.


Elaine Packard � Chair (espackard@msn.com)

John Osborn � Secretary (john@waterplanet.ws)

SC Aquaculture Policy.pdf81.32 KB
Skagit.jpg9.58 KB
AnacortesWater.pdf81.67 KB
Benefits Results and Challenges of Marine Reserves.pdf418.13 KB
GOALS.pdf61.29 KB
Community Rain Garden Project Helpful Links.pdf52.8 KB
Water Cycle.pdf1.55 MB