Friends of Toppenish Creek

Our Mission



Friends of Toppenish Creek is dedicated to protecting the rights of rural communities and improving oversight of industrial agriculture. FOTC operates under the simple principle that all people deserve clean air, clean water and protection from abuse that results when profit is favored over people. FOTC works through public education, citizen investigations, research, legislation, special events, and direct action.






Friends of Toppenish Creek does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in its programs or activities.


On February 6, 2023 FOTC asked the EPA External Civil Rights Compliance Office to re-open our complaint against the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency regarding failure of the YRCAA to engage people with Limited English Proficiency. To read that letter click HERE or go to our page on Issues and People.

On March 6, 2023 FOTC submitted a revised and expanded complaint to the EPA External Civil Rights Compliance Office. To read that letter click HERE or go to our page on Issues and People.


Press Release: Ecology's Rewrite of Industrial Dairy Permits Endangers Public Health; Threatens Waterways, Aquifers, Ecosystems Across the State


JANUARY 10, 2023


Lawful and protective permits are necessary to safeguard drinking water from nitrate pollution, to protect shellfish beds from pathogenic bacteria, and to ensure public health in the context of a changing climate. In its 2021 ruling, the Washington Court of Appeals made clear that Ecology must issue concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permits that prevent further contamination of Washington's waters and address the realities of the climate crisis. The agency has failed to do so with its new permits.

"These 'new' permits represent an injustice for clean water and the rule of law. Just over a year ago the Washington Court of Appeals upheld our simple ask—that permits have enforceable limits set at levels appropriate to protect public health," said Amy van Saun, senior attorney, Center for Food Safety. "With this clear, well-reasoned decision in hand, we expected the state to follow the court's achievable roadmap to establishing a permit that would protect Washington state communities. Instead, Ecology decided to issue a permit that violates the law and leaves those communities at risk."

"The people of the Lower Yakima Valley have been suffering for decades, with sixty percent of the water wells within a mile of a main cluster of Yakima County CAFO dairies rendered unsafe for drinking," said Margie Van Cleve, of the Sierra Club. "It is long past time for Ecology to stand up to the state's factory farming industry and take responsibility for protecting the people from this rampant pollution."

"From industrial facilities and cities, to construction sites, sewage treatment plants, and military bases, state and federal laws govern how water pollution is mitigated, monitored, and managed; CAFOs are no different," said Sean Dixon, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper. "Across the board, these permits fail to meet baseline legal requirements and, without improvements, they'll further exacerbate the public health and environmental crisis burdening watersheds and families across the state."

"Federal law mandates that a CAFO demonstrate how the facility will meet legal requirements designed to protect water quality before it can obtain a permit," said Kelly Hunter Foster, Waterkeeper Alliance senior attorney. "Contrary to the Clean Water Act, Ecology's permit allows CAFOs to obtain permits without demonstrating that the facilities can, and will, meet all mandatory legal requirements."

"Industrial dairies use and pollute massive amounts of water. They contribute to the decline of the natural environment and to the climate crisis. Yet, Ecology fails to comply with the State Environmental Policy Act's requirement to disclose the true impact of these facilities on communities and the environment," said Jean Mendoza, executive director of Friends of Toppenish Creek. "The state must make this information public and provide a true accounting of the impacts of these facilities, so we can protect our communities from these bad neighbors."

"Yet again, Ecology fails to grapple with the climate crisis," said Jennifer Calkins, Diehl fellow with the Western Environmental Law Center. "For example, in 2021, massive flooding on the Skagit and Whatcom Rivers blew out CAFOs, drowning dairy cows and destroying infrastructure. Yet, despite the court's order to consider climate change, Ecology did not account for the state's new climate reality when it issued these permits."

"The law is clear: Ecology's permits must protect Washington's waters, wildlife, and communities," said Andrew Hawley, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. "Despite winning our previous case, Ecology has forced us to return to the courtroom to defend our communities from an agency that continues to shirk its legal duty to protect public health and the environment."

The groups are represented by the attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center and Center for Food Safety.

To read the Notice of Appeal click HERE

To read comments on Ecology's 2023 NPDES permits for CAFOs click HERE


Press Release: Large CAFOs with Manure Lagoons Pollute 

Today (October 26, 2022), a nationwide coalition of 51 citizens’ groups and community advocacy, environmental justice, and environmental advocacy organizations, together representing tens of millions of people, in partnership with Earthjustice, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its oversight of water pollution from industrial-scale concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly known as Large CAFOs.  The petitioning groups argue that improved oversight of Large CAFOs is necessary to satisfy the federal Clean Water Act and executive orders intended to advance environmental justice.


Press Release



Equal Pay For Equal Work? Not At The YRCAA

     The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) has hired a company called Compensation Connections to review compensation for staff and make recommendations. The goal, according to the YRCAA Board of Directors, was to bring pay more in line with pay for other agencies and private enterprise. 
     Compensation Connections presented their report at the YRCAA board meeting on October 10. The consultants proposed a revision of the YRCAA pay grades as shown below:

     Under the proposed grading system the women who work at YRCAA are classified at the lowest pay grade, despite the significant responsibilities associated with their jobs. 

      YRCAA's new Executive Director, Marc Thornsbury, has promised to review Compensation Connection's recommendations and report back to the board at their November meeting. 

Additional Information:

Public Testimony

YRCAA October 2022 Board Packet

YRCAA Administrative Code Part B

Letter to the YRCAA Board of Directors 



Lower Yakima Valley Dairies produce so much Methane that they can sell it as natural gas

Impact of Digesters that Produce Natural Gas from Cow Manure

Investment groups see an opportunity to capitalize on Washington’s recently adopted Climate Commitment Act (CCA) Cap and Invest Program by building Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facilities in the Lower Yakima Valley (LYV) that would refine methane from cow manure into natural gas that could be pumped into the nearby Northwest Pipeline.

Friends of Toppenish Creek (FOTC) has studied reporting protocols to learn how much methane is emitted in the LYV from concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) dairies, how much can be captured, and how much will still be emitted into the atmosphere if RNG projects are approved. According to FOTC calculations methane emissions from animal agriculture in the LYV are over 29,000 metric tons per year or about 0.737 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 equivalents per year. Manure digestion also converts nitrogen in the manure to ammonia, an additional, undesirable byproduct.

Methane is created when manure is stored under anaerobic conditions in large manure lagoons. An alternative solution to the methane problem is not to create it in the first place by moving dairies toward dry manure management systems that do not involve lagoon storage. 

Recent legislation requires WA agencies to engage overburdened communities such as the LYV when the agencies address sources of pollution. This is a challenge because people in overburdened communities such as the LYV often have limited education and limited English proficiency. The WA State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) also requires community participation in regulatory decision making. FOTC submits that early discussion of the potential impacts at the local level, along with careful implementation of the SEPA are the best ways to ensure thoughtful permitting and policy making with respect to RNG.

To learn more read this statement from Friends of Toppenish Creek.


See Page 11, U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Plan at



What Did the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area Accomplish?

   As of October 2022, the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area (LYV GWMA) Implementation Team has held seven meetings, purchased a geoprobe for the South Yakima Conservation District, and arranged for bottled water delivery to 75 homes. 

      FOTC has submitted public records requests for meeting summaries for the LYV GWMA Implementation Team. The responses indicate that the implementation team has met on: