For the River

In our first newsletter of the year, we spotlight Columbia Riverkeeper’s “Cleaning Up Hanford” program area.

Director's Letter

Lauren Goldberg
Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director, Columbia Riverkeeper

The first time I kayaked the Columbia River’s Hanford Reach, I was confronted with the unexpected: the sheer beauty of the Columbia as a pulsing, wild river. The Hanford Reach spans 50 miles of undammed, free-flowing river and contains islands, riffles, gravel bars, oxbow ponds, and backwater sloughs. A journey back in time.

The Hanford Reach is the last remaining stretch of the mainstem Columbia River where fall Chinook salmon spawn in significant numbers. The ancient river and lakebed sediments that create the White Bluffs, part of the scenic Hanford Reach National Monument, rise up along the Columbia’s banks.

The Hanford Reach is also home to the Hanford Nuclear Site. Covering more than 500 square miles, it’s as big as Los Angeles—and is the most polluted place in America. In our first Currents of the year, we spotlight Columbia Riverkeeper’s “Cleaning Up Hanford” program area, which works in solidarity with Tribal Nations to hold the U.S. government accountable for cleaning up Hanford and protecting all people who rely on a healthy Columbia.

Here’s some context if you’re new to the issue:
  • Hanford is a legacy of World War II and the Cold War. In 1943, the federal government selected Hanford as a top-secret site for the Manhattan Project, which called for enriching plutonium for nuclear weapons. Concentrated plutonium manufactured at Hanford powered the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Th e U.S. continued producing plutonium at Hanford throughout the Cold War, enough for thousands of weapons, leaving behind an astounding toxic legacy. Since 1989, the U.S. government’s stated mission at Hanford is cleanup.
Our goals:

Honor tribal Treaty rights and protect people, the Columbia River, and all life that depends on it from Hanford’s radioactive and toxic legacy. This requires advocating for timely, effective cleanup and the federal funding to get the job done.

Our approaches:

Monitor government decisions on Hanford cleanup and support people with the facts and law to make a difference. We work in solidarity with Tribal Nations and in partnership with nonprofits, including Hanford Challenge and Heart of America Northwest, to increase public participation in critical cleanup decisions at Hanford. And we serve on the non-partisan Hanford Advisory Board that provides recommendations on Hanford cleanup. 

As a Columbia Riverkeeper supporter, you make a difference for Hanford cleanup. From advocating for more effective groundwater-treatment facilities to stopping proposals to make Hanford a national nuclear waste dumping site, your involvement has changed the course of history at Hanford. With your support, Columbia Riverkeeper will continue to hold the U.S. government accountable and protect the Columbia for generations to come.


To ensure the complete and timely cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Site, we review and critique cleanup and restoration plans.


The fight to clean up the most polluted place in America.


Add your voice to the growing number of people holding the U.S. government accountable for decades of nuclear-waste pollution.


Want to hear all the stories from Columbia Riverkeeper's Currents Issue 1, 2023 Newsletter?