About the Fund Columbia River Fund

The Columbia River is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest and has the greatest flow of any North American river draining into the Pacific. The Columbia River watershed extends from the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon. Historically, the Columbia River supported one of the greatest salmon and steelhead runs on Earth, and through 1840, up to 16 million salmon and steelhead returned to the Columbia River to spawn each year. These massive salmon runs, along with other fish and wildlife populations, historically supported, and continue to sustain, rich Native American cultures and traditions across the entire Columbia River Basin.

Unfortunately, although the Columbia River salmon fishery still supports thousands of commercial and sport fishermen and many millions of dollars of beneficial economic activity both on the river and along the Pacific Coast, today only about 6% of the historic fishery remains. Dams logging, water diversions for agriculture, industrial and municipal pollution, and human population growth have also altered the Columbia’s flow regime and water quality, reducing the water quality and quality habitat values across the entire river basin. Water quality has been further degraded by seepage from toxic waste dumps, and agricultural and stormwater runoff. Most recently, the Columbia River faces the fresh threat of pollution associated with coal, oil and gas transportation and generation.

The Columbia River Fund supports non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting and restoring the Columbia River watershed, and honoring the historical uses of the watershed while preserving fish and wildlife so that the Columbia River watershed will be healthy and productive in perpetuity. The Fund was created by the Columbia Riverkeeper, and is funded through settlements of legal actions as part of the Columbia Riverkeeper’s Clean Water Act enforcement program. Columbia Riverkeeper’s goal in enforcing federal water quality law is to bring polluters into compliance with the law, thus leading to cleaner and healthier water bodies and fisheries. In addition to ensuring less pollution, cases and settlements may contain a penalty provision in which local conservation groups receive funds to protect water quality. Columbia Riverkeeper does not receive money from the penalty fund.

Columbia Riverkeeper asked Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment to set up and administer a grant program to award the funds back to the community as grants to protect and improve the Columbia River watershed. Rose Foundation is a grant making public charity that specializes in handling restitution payments and class-action settlement awards. For more than past 27 years, Rose has administered more than 600 settlement mitigation funds, enabling nearly $50 million in community grants in Washington, Oregon, California and other states.


Tim Bell, PNW Program Officer


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