Our History

We protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse announced the formation of Columbia Riverkeeper on Earth Day, 2000. But currents run deeper than 2000. Columbia River United, led by Greg and Cyndy DeBruler, formed in 1989 in the Gorge, and Congresswoman Furse started Clean Water Columbia in Portland in 1997. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. convinced them to merge and create one voice to protect the mighty river: Columbia Riverkeeper.

Below are snapshots of Riverkeeper over the years.
columbia river united
1989
Flowers over nukes

Upon learning that a nuclear reactor would be shipped to Hanford up the Columbia: “A group of us decided to hold a protest on the Hood River bridge as the barge passed below. About 150 windsurfers, local citizens, and Native Americans gathered and threw flowers on the Coast Guard gunner ship as it passed. We monitored the radiation level and found it to be quite high.”

2000 festival poster
2000
RiverFest

Reggae star Jimmy Cliff performs at Riverkeeper’s Columbiana RiverFest.

Greg DeBruler on the riverkeeper boat, 2002
2002
Riverkeeper patrol launched

Greg and Cyndy DeBruler launched the pollution patrol boat, along with new attorney, Brent Foster.  

don't weaken our water quality standards, photo of baby at rally
2005
Clean water please!

When Oregon DEQ tried to weaken our water clarity standards at industry’s behest, Riverkeeper and allies turned to cute kids and strong legal arguments to protect clean water. 

lorri with adopt a river volunteers
2006
Adopt-a-River and monitoring launched

Riverkeeper has trained hundreds of volunteers, from Cathlamet to Wenatchee, to sample for pollution.

Brent Foster and Linda Meanus
2008
Celilo

Fifty years after The Dalles dam inundated Celilo Falls, Riverkeeper partnered with Celilo Village to create a photo exhibit honoring the mighty falls and the people who fished there.  

2010 Brandwood LNG victory
2010
Bradwood LNG victory!

We stood with farmers, fishermen, and inspiring activists to protect the Columbia River estuary from a destructive gas plant. This signature victory set the tone for future fossil fuel campaigns.

2011 free white salmon
2011
The White Salmon runs free

Not many campaigns end with a BANG. The Condit dam on the White Salmon River in south-central Washington blocked salmon for 100 years until a huge community effort and a little dynamite freed the river.

2011 greg with fish
2011
Oregon adopts nation’s best toxic limits

Working with Umatilla and other tribes, Riverkeeper pushed Oregon to adopt the nation’s most protective limits on toxic pollution in fish. Other states will follow. 

2014 brett on camera being interviewed
2014
Coal, oil, and dams, oh my!

First, we stopped coal export when Oregon rejected a dock-building permit. Next, after Riverkeeper sued, the Army Corps agreed to reduce toxic oil discharges from large dams. Finally, we protected 800 acres of farmland and riparian forest along the Columbia River at Port Westward.

2015
Highlights on the fossil fuel front

Portland passed a landmark Fossil Fuel Resolution; we exposed oil refinery plans in Longview, WA; Oregon shut the door on coal export; and the estuary remained LNG-free.

 

2016
Mosier, OR

On June 3, 2016, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation derailed, spilled, and burned. Government leaders paid attention and eventually rejected the Tesoro oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, WA.

coal victory poster by nina montenegro
2017
Millennium coal victory

Big Coal came to town, and you sent it packing. After six years of hard work, we defeated the Millennium coal terminal in Longview, Washington. 

Protest, Olympia, Washington, 1 million voices against coal and oil, photo by Kristi Nakata
January 2018
Big Oil denied

Tesoro sought to ship over 131 million barrels of oil per year down the Columbia River. On January 9, 2018, the Port of Vancouver voted to end Tesoro's lease and Washington Governor Jay Inslee rejected the proposal on January 29, 2018.

fossil fuel map, after, 2018.02
2018 and beyond
The future of Riverkeeper.

Riverkeeper will keep working with rural and urban communities, tribal nations, local businesses, strong coalitions, and our amazing members to protect clean water, defeat fossil fuel terminals, and engage communities on the Columbia River.

BECOME A MEMBER TODAY

Take a stand for clean water and healthy communities. 
Your membership protects and restores the mighty Columbia River now and for future generations.

 

MEET THE TEAM

Riverkeeper’s team includes scientists, environmental lawyers, and community organizers. We work to organize and empower local communities, enforce environmental laws, and build strategic coalitions. Our mission is to protect and restore the Columbia River and all life connected to it.

MEET THE BOARD

Columbia Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors oversees the organization’s conservation goals and policies, finances, and public relations.

MEET THE CANVASS: CITIZEN OUTREACH

The Columbia Riverkeeper Citizen Outreach Team engages the public in Columbia River issues, shows people how to get involved, and helps raise funds.