by Joel Smith

Opening the Floodgates -- KENNEWICK, Wash. -- As one of the final performances in his waning administration, sitting-duck governor Gary Locke unveiled Friday a bold plan that secures water for Columbia River communities, farmers and fish for the next 20 years.

Called the Columbia River Initiative, the plan represents an agreement between the governor's office, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Columbia Basin Project irrigation districts and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to make river water available to people and fish through conservation programs, water purchases and exploration of new options for water storage.

In all, the initiative tags 728,000 acre-feet of water to meet the region's needs for the next 20 years. Of that, 485,000 acre-feet would be held in trust as mitigation for new out-of-stream uses; that includes 30,000 acre-feet of irrigation water for basin farmers now relying on the declining Odessa aquifer. It also includes 243,000 acre-feet of water to be held for the benefit of fish and an uncertain amount for those whose rights may now be interrupted during times of low flow.

And -- wonder of wonders -- the initiative also includes proposed legislation and $79 million in new state funding to support the program.

Bob Lohn, head of the local branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, characterizes the plan as a "major step" in the efforts to meet the needs of fish and farmers (including fish farmers). The initiative would meet the needs of all outstanding Columbia water-right requests pending before Ecology and, it's hoped, streamline a water-rights consultation process that many find overly bureaucratic.

And recent economic reports have suggested that new withdrawals from the river could also result in substantial economic growth for the region.

"I believe this is the largest single economic development investment in Eastern Washington in decades," says Gov. Locke. "This plan represents the first real breakthrough in a long struggle between the demand for new water from the Columbia River and the consequences those withdrawals may have on efforts to restore salmon. I'm pleased that we are providing this economic boost while also sustaining and protecting our natural resources."

He adds that "Through this plan, we have the opportunity to boost the economy of Eastern Washington by $186 million and add up to 9,000 new jobs. I urge the Legislature and the next governor to not let this unique opportunity pass us by."

Something Fishy -- SPIRIT LAKE, Idaho -- Just weeks before the grand opening of the swank Montvale Hotel in downtown Spokane, ConoverBond President Rob Brewster announces the birth of BigFish, the developer's new bistro and coffee house in Spirit Lake.

Brewster, who spent many years growing up at his family's cabin there, says, "I have so many great memories up in Spirit Lake, and to bring BigFish to the region and offer something different and fun with really good food is exciting."

What's so different and fun, he says, is the restaurant's focus on local fishing and fisherpeople. The restaurant aims to honor local casting lore by giving out free meals to the best fish stories and photos submitted each month. With their "if you hook it, we'll cook it" deal, fishers can bring in their fresh catch and the chefs will prepare it one of four ways.

A Real Snore -- SPOKANE -- Two months after featuring the city in an article on Wi-Fi communications, Time has tapped the Spokane brain trust once again for its latest cover article on the science of sleep. Quoted in the article was Dr. Gregory Belenky, formerly the head of sleep research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, and now with WSU-Spokane.

Belenky's contribution to the magazine's sheep-count? A study he and his colleagues authored, showing that "the brain's ability to use glucose drops off dramatically after being awake 24 hours, indicating a decrease in brain activity -- despite the fact that there's still plenty of glucose available." Belenky's study shows that glucose tails off most in the reason and emotion factories of the brain, but that while that drop levels off after 24 hours, "performance doesn't level off. It continues to tank."

Bad news for truckers, but no worry for those intending to slumber through the holiday weekend in a tryptophan-induced fog.

Check out the Time story, on newsstands through Sunday.

Publication date: 12/23/04

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About The Author

Joel Smith

Joel Smith is the media editor for The Inlander. In that position, he manages and directs and edits all copy for the website, the newspaper and all other special publications. A former staff writer, he has reported on local and state politics, the environment, urban development and culture, Spokane's...