For the second installment of “The Way We Work”, we interviewed the Vice Chair of the Friends of the White Salmon River, one of Crag’s clients that has been continuously battling new legislation that would have changed residential zoning laws along the shores of the federally designated “Wild and Scenic” White Salmon River. The proposed residential zoning chages would have enabled private land owners to subdivide their current lots up to ten times. This kind of residential development along the White Salmon River would have had multiple negative environmental implications as well as taking away from one of the United State’s most raved about wild rivers that is open to water sportspeople of all kinds.
Why did the Friends of The White Salmon River call on Crag for assistance?
The wild and scenic White Salmon River runs through mainly private land in Klickitat County, Washington. It is also a popular whitewater recreation river, and that is one of its outstanding and remarkable values. Condit Dam blocked fish passage at river mile three on this vibrant little Columbia River tributary for nearly 100 years. When the dam was removed in fall of 2011, salmon and steelhead began returning, warming the hearts of fishlovers.
Meanwhile, Klickitat County has wanted to create more development opportunities for landowners along the river for several years, and the Friends have participated in this process, maintaining standing and building community support for zoning that would protect the river and its watershed for the fish and other biological gems.
When the county adopted a zoning plan that put development interests ahead of the needs of the river and its watershed, our little volunteer group had no resources with which to mount a court challenge.
Did Crag’s expertise help The Friends of the White Salmon River accomplish goals that were otherwise not possible?
Holy cats, I guess so! Crag persuaded the court to rule in our favor and send the county back to the drawing board with directions to complete the kind of environmental review Friends had been demanding all along. We could not have done it without Crag’s help.
How did Crag provide services that otherwise would be too costly?
Crag’s legal team represented Friends of the White Salmon in court and continues to advise us as we negotiate complicated legal waters with the county.
For what reasons did The Friends of the White Salmon River choose to use Crag?
Crag was recommended by our partners, Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
How has Crag helped protect the White Salmon River?
With so much private land along its shoreline, the environmental studies the court is requiring are absolutely critical to creation of land use planning that will allow this beautiful river to support the returning fish, whitewater recreation and the needs of the local community. The county was willing to cover the shores of the White Salmon with development without regard for water quality or other important values.
Where would the White Salmon River be without the Crag Law Center ?
Well on its way to being loved to death. The development pressure in this area, adjacent to the Columbia River National Scenic Area and only an hour from major metropolitan areas cannot be overstated.
What about Crag inspires you and your work?
The passion of its legal staff! Lead attorney Ralph Bloemers took a very genuine interest in this case and obviously loves “our” river as we do. He is scrappy, persistent, professional and kindly makes himself available to help us at all times. Other staffers obviously help him to be the crackerjack environmental attorney he is!
Friends of the White Salmon River are local advocates for return of the fish from which this river takes its name, and for protection and enhancement of the vibrant watershed that feeds it.
Joshua Berg is an undergraduate intern at Crag from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and is funded by the Duke Engage Summer Program. He is a rising sophomore and currently plans on majoring in Environmental Science and Policy.