The RWC NRT is grounded geographically in the Columbia River Basin (CRB) of the Pacific Northwest. The US EPA designated the CRB as a Critical Large Aquatic Ecosystem with national priority status and the Healthy Communities and Ecosystems goal “to protect, sustain, or restore the health of people, communities, and ecosystems using integrated and comprehensive approaches and partnerships”. Water quality in the CRB is of concern to many stakeholders and tribal partners working towards raising awareness and taking steps towards a cleaner river-watershed-community system.
Recent examples of such water quality-related efforts in the CRB include the urgent requests of Native American tribes and First Nations in Canada, to include ecological function as part of the renegotiated requirements of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada. The EPA-led Restoration Working Group has been planning multi-scale, distributed efforts to reduce dioxins, PCBs, metals, legacy pollutants, and pharmaceuticals. The State of Washington is working toward a green economy, supporting Smart Cities initiatives such as green infrastructure, and the Voluntary Stewardship Program, a watershed-based, incentive-based process to protect critical areas, promote viable agriculture, and encourage cooperation of diverse stakeholders.
Washington State University (WSU) is strategically situated for the RWC NRT program, with campuses distributed throughout the CRB. The Pullman campus is located near the CRB headwaters and situated on the historic lands of the Nez Perce Tribe; the Tri-Cities campus is in the center of the CRB at the confluence of the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima Rivers; the Vancouver campus is near the CRB outlet and Portland in OR and situated on the historic lands of the Cowlitz Tribe; and the Puyallup campus and WSU Metro Center are near large urban areas. WSU has long-standing research collaborations with many decision-making entities in Washington (Dept of Ecology, Dept Fish & Wildlife, Conservation Districts), the region (Bonneville Power Administration, Watershed Councils), and at the federal level (PNNL, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, USGS). WSU and 12 Northwest Tribes have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) “to create a structure to strengthen the relationships between them, and to improve the quality of educational services and opportunities provided”. Our land-grant Extension network encompasses urban and rural communities, all levels of government, tribes, and other decision-making bodies.