Program areas at Columbia Riverkeeper
Fighting fossil fuelsriverkeeper has worked with tribal nations, local businesses, strong coalitions, and our amazing members to defeat nearly every new fossil fuel infrastructure project on the Columbia river! This includes the worlds largest fracked gas to methanol refinery, the nations largest oil-by-rail shipping terminal, and the nations largest coal export terminal. Western north america has huge, fracked gas, oil, and coal reserves, and the Columbia river is a convenient route to ship these fossil fuels to asia. We stand in the way. Preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure is a critical task to protect our climate. If fossil fuel corporations build new infrastructureshipping terminals, pipelines, refineriesthey will lock us into decades of fossil fuel use at a time when we must rapidly move toward clean energy and fewer petrochemicals. In 2020 and 2021, Riverkeeper and allies prevailed over the worlds largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery in kalama, wa. The company proposed to ship the methanol overseas to make plastic or burn as a fuel. We partnered with local residents and climate activists to push the state of Washington to complete a new analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from the massive petrochemical refinery. We produced strong earned and social media to communicate broadly the impacts of this project. In addition, Riverkeeper built power in local communities by recruiting, inspiring, and training local activists. We helped organize and train over 150 volunteer action takers in 10 communities, including: kalama, longview, and vancouver, wa, and warrenton, astoria, clatskanie, rainier, st. helens, scappoose, and portland, or. We also partnered with Columbia county residents to oppose plans to rezone 800 acres of land adjacent to prime salmon habitat at port westward, or from agricultural to industrial. The rezone would pave the way for more industrial use. Riverkeeper supported community organizing and provided legal support work to protect salmon and farmland. We also advocated against the expansion of an oil-by-rail terminal at port westward. In portland, Riverkeeper and allies helped prevent the expansion of zenith energys oil-by-rail shipping terminal. We pushed the city of portland to deny new pipes that would allow zenith energy to greatly expand tar sand crude shipments out of portland. Riverkeeper also pressured the city of longview to reject a huge anhydrous ammonia plant by using demographic data to highlight environmental justice impacts of a new pollution threat adjacent to the cities lowest-income neighborhoods. Riverkeeper worked with local residents for three years to raise concerns about the health and climate dangers of anhydrous ammonia. We celebrated victory in 2020 when the company pulled out of the controversial project.riverkeeper also participated in the power past fracked gas coalition by serving as co-director and the coalition fiscal sponsor.
Saving salmonriverkeeper works to protect salmon by reducing pollution and protecting and restoring habitat. We identify and protect key salmon habitat in the Columbia basin from industrial development and other threats, including fossil fuel infrastructure (see below), new shipping terminals, and chemical plants. Riverkeeper also works to protect ground and surface water from new factory farms in eastern Oregon. For example, thousands of Riverkeeper members and our coalition partners called on Oregon governor kate brown, lawmakers, and state agencies to protect the Columbia river and rural communities from factory farm pollution. Oregons laws contain loopholes that ignore air and water pollution from mega dairies, making the state attractive for factory farm expansion. In addition, Riverkeeper made strong progress in 2020 to address the hot water crises on the Columbia river. Here is the difficult situation we face: hot water, caused by dams and exacerbated by climate change, is killing Columbia and snake river salmon. The rivers are simply too hot. Puget sound orcas feed on salmon at the mouth of the Columbia during critical months before childbirth. The lack of salmon causes starving orcas and the tragic loss of orca calves. The federal agencies in charge of the Columbia are not solving the problem. Riverkeeper achieved important victories to protect salmon. First, Riverkeeper and allies prevailed at the ninth circuit court of appeal over the u.s. environmental protection agency (epa) to force the agency to write a comprehensive plan, called a total maximum daily load, to address the impacts of dams on water temperature and salmon survival. Epa completed the plan, which identifies the large dams on the Columbia and snake rivers as the major source of heat pollution. Second, the states of Washington and Oregon, for the first time ever, required federal dam operators to meet the safe temperature limit for salmon, 68 degrees fahrenheit. Riverkeeper also advocated for a free-flowing lower snake river. Snake river dam removal is the best way to restore cool water in the Columbia river and prevent the extinction of critically endangered salmon populations.
Engaging river communitiesriverkeeper works to engage river communities to make a difference for clean water. We monitor water quality, clean up riparian areas and beaches, conduct outreach to diverse communities, restore habitat, and educate students. Several components of our engaging river communities were suspended in 2020 due to covid-19, including our water quality monitoring at popular swim beaches and our nichol natural area education and restoration program. In 2020, Riverkeeper increased our outreach and engagement efforts to latino communities. This includes doing culturally specific outreach and engagement, producing twenty bilingual radio shows and podcasts, called conoce tu Columbia (know your Columbia), on environmental and social justice issues, and providing additional materials in spanish. Our senior organizer also helped create a new latino-led organization in the Columbia river gorge, called comunidades, dedicated to social and environmental justice. In 2020, comunidades engaged in community response to covid-19, including providing free masks and resources to latino communities.