Spokane river

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The drought conditions in the Inland Northwest are changing the way Avista manages the Spokane River system this summer.

The utility has announced that, due to lower-than-normal water levels in Lake Coeur d’Alene, it plans to release less water through its Post Falls Dam.

Spokane River Advocates Push Again For PCB Cleanup Plan

Jul 6, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A decade-long battle over removing toxic chemicals from the Spokane River may continue in a Seattle courtroom.

Members of the group Spokane River Team are asking a federal judge to push government regulators to limit the amount of PCBs that can be discharged into the river.

City Of Spokane Releases Climate Survey Results

May 7, 2020
City of Spokane

Health and economic issues are top of mind for most people right now. But results of a survey released this week by the city of Spokane show the environment is still important to people.


More than 1,400 residents answered questions in a recent online poll about climate change.

Steve Jackson photo.

Avista has been adjusting its dam operations on the Spokane River to accommodate the seasonal flow this spring. It's one part optimizing power generation, and one part fine tuning the water level.

Washington Department of Health

Washington’s Department of Ecology is looking for ways to meet water quality standards for chemicals called PCBs in the Spokane River.

Currently the agency is proposing to allow for so-called “pollution variance” to allow for temporary lower standards for the chemicals from dischargers in the region.

That action is taking some heat from area environmentalists.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Monday on the Inland Journal podcast, we talk with a man who has been involved in the region’s toughest environmental issues over the last four decades. Grant Pfeifer played a role in developing regulations for grass field burning in eastern Washington. He helped implement tougher clean water standards in the Spokane River. And there were others. Now he’s retiring.

Ecology Department Begins Hangman Creek Assessment

May 11, 2017
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This week and next, members of the Washington Department of Ecology’s watershed unit are taking a unique trip. On Monday, they started their venture in Rock Creek in northern Whitman County. Then they moved into Hangman Creek.

“Looking at non-point pollution, but also documenting the riparian health and the overall stream health,” Hummel said.

That’s Steve Hummel. Today we met him and his partner Martyn Quinn as they prepared to continue their voyage. Quinn says the goal is to get a water-level view of the 60-mile stretch of stream, which meanders through farmland south of Spokane and eventually empties into the Spokane River.

Orin Blomberg via flickr

Spokane River advocates are asking Governor Inslee to weigh in on establishing new minimum flow for the waterway.

Nick Bramhall via flickr

Some environmental groups are asking the Washington State Department of Ecology to set a standard that would increase the flow of the Spokane River during the driest months of the year.

The city of Spokane has filed a lawsuit against the giant chemical company Monsanto. City officials filed the suit in U.S. District Court against the chemical giant.

Little Spokane Fire 70% Contained by Friday

Jul 10, 2015
Little Spokane Fire
231 Fire Command Center

Firefighters working on the Little Spokane fire have it 70 percent contained (as of late Friday afternoon). Over the past day about 300 firefighters have worked on the roughly 170 acre fire that started at the Painted Rocks trailhead in Riverside State Park.

Little Spokane Fire
231 Fire Command Center

As of 10:00am Wednesday:

The fire is still completely un-contained, but fire incident commanders say they have a fire line around all of the blaze. Fire officials say they are making good progress at the fire burning along the Little Spokane River just north of Spokane.

The Little Spokane Fire sparked Monday afternoon at a hiking and paddling trailhead in Riverside State Park. Fire officials for this blaze and the '231 Fire' are sharing a command center.

To Keep Lake Full, River Reduced to a Trickle

Jun 7, 2015

Even before the advent of what promises to be a long, hot, dry summer, Avista is already in the midst of a delicate balancing act, trying to keep Lake Coeur d'Alene full while feeding the Spokane River.

Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Transportation over new rules for oil train traffic that they say do not go far enough to protect against catastrophic accidents.

Free Trees For Inland NW Residents

Mar 19, 2015
City of Spokane

The number of trees in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene will mushroom this spring with give-aways by both cities. As part of its Spokane Forest Initiative, the City of Spokane will hand out 2,000 free trees - one batch on April 17th and 18th at three area nurseries - and the next batch in October.

Spokane Regional Health District

A federal judge has sided with environmental groups and the Spokane Tribe in a case concerning pollution in the Spokane River. The case involves chemicals called PCB’s that have been linked to cancer and liver dysfunction for years. While the products were banned in manufacturing since the 1970’s, they still remain in the environment.

The Center for Environmental Law and Policy says the state and Federal EPA has failed to develop a policy for cleaning up PCB’s from the river. Monday, a federal court agreed with that assessment.

Instream Flow Rule Draws River-Advocate’s Ire

Jan 28, 2015
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

A new rule on the Spokane River will affect potential water users, from water-hungry businesses to recreational boaters. Tuesday, the department of ecology adopted an instream flow rule for the river’s main stem and a small portion in Stevens County.

It’s a busy year for Avista Utilities as the company is making some major infrastructure upgrades. Avista Utilities has operated several dams on the Spokane River for a long time now; in fact some are over a hundred years old. Despite their age, many still use machines and systems dating back to their beginning.

Now the company is taking some big steps to improve those systems. At the Post falls dam, they are updating the century-old south channel spillway. At Nine Mile dam, the company is putting in two new turbines that will have vastly improved power generation.

Lake Clean-Up Work Pays Dividends

Nov 25, 2014

Long running efforts to clean up toxic waste in Idaho's Silver Valley mining district are paying off. A new report from the US Geological Survey concluded that concentrations of three heavy metals - cadmium, lead and zinc - have been cut back significantly since controversial clean-up work by the EPA began in the 1990s.

A USGS hydrologist, Greg Clark, studied 18 water quality monitors set up from Mullan, in the heart of the mining district, to Post Falls. He found that the three heavy metals have been cut back by 65 percent in the Coeur d'Alene River between 1992 and 2013.

Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

As city planners work on the major goal of preventing untreated water from flowing into the river, an environmental group is overseeing one small part of the solution. The city contracted with the Lands Council to create a storm garden in the Shadle area.

County's Wastewater Treatment Permit Challenged

Oct 29, 2014

A vaguely worded state permit for Spokane County's new $173-million dollar wastewater treatment plant has been sent back for a do-over. A judge in Thurston County found that a permit issued in 2011 by the Ecology Department lacks any limits on discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs for short - into the Spokane River.

The state Pollution Control Hearing Board held last year that the county facility was adding PCBs to river water, and that the state permit for the discharges was vague and unenforceable on PCB limits.

Spokane: Second Best American Riverfront

Oct 22, 2014
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

Go ahead and soak in that view of the Spokane River if you drive past or across it this week. Spokane is rated as the number two city for best American riverfront. USA Today and the website 10 Best collaborated on the poll, naming the best city through votes by the public.

Washington Girds for Future Water Disputes

Oct 22, 2014
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

Washington State water managers are trying to gird for a crunch they know is coming. Economic and population growth in the Spokane area will increase demand for water from the Spokane River. But the river itself is shrinking.

The state's Department of Ecology is proposing some minimum in-stream flow levels that are meant to protect existing water rights and allocate future demand from the river and its underlying aquifer.

Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

An integrated clean water plan, a medical school, and the North South Corridor. Those are the 2015 legislative priorities announced by a group of city council members at a news conference Wednesday. Council President Ben Stuckart and council members Candace Mumm and Jon Snyder released the two page list of state requests.

City Ponders Best Use for Waterfront Land

Aug 7, 2014

The City of Coeur d'Alene is trying to figure out what to do with some prime waterfront property - six miles of it. It's a narrow corridor of land along the Spokane River, stretching from Independence Point on Lake Coeur d'Alene west to Huetter Road.

Train derailments are not common in Spokane- the last major one happened in 1991. But in preparation for the worst, emergency managers did an exercise Monday to practice responding to a train derailment that involves hazardous materials.

Entities who want permits to withdraw from the Spokane River will face more restrictions down the road. The state Department of Ecology is creating an instream flow rule for the river’s stem in Spokane County, and a portion in Stevens County.

City Unveils $310M Water Plan to Public

May 5, 2014

A proposed clean water plan would divert an unprecedented amount of pollutants from the Spokane River, but cost taxpayers about 300-million dollars over five years. The mayor’s administration and city council are seeking public input on the Integrated Clean Water Plan on Monday.