Today, the Yakima River Basin took one more step toward a bright future after a summer
of devastating drought as a bill to protect and enhance fisheries and the ecosystem passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The passage of S. 1694 – known as The Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015 — through committee represents a milestone for this legislation. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Proponents of the legislation anticipate that a companion bill will soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
With the rise of global commerce we often feel a pinch in our wallets or, for agriculture, on our farms. The impacts of climate warming affect everything in our lives. From how we do business, to how we water our lawns, to how we recreate, climate change impacts are constant.
Nowhere are the effects more pronounced and intimidating than Washington’s Yakima River basin—home to a $4.5 billion dollar annual agricultural economy here in Washington.
“This year we’ve seen amazing partnerships and cooperation forming around water use in the Yakima Basin,” said Lisa Pelly, Director of the Washington Water Project of Trout Unlimited. “By working together, we’ve kept farmers afloat and helped enhance water in the rivers for fish and wildlife. This legislation will guarantee that kind of innovative management in the future, and we are truly grateful to Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray for their visionary support.”
The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan will increase the sustainability and resilience of our Yakima River Basin, particularly in the face of climate change. The plan itself provides for improved water infrastructure and storage, water conservation and ecosystem restoration, and construction of fish passage at two dams, which will restore historic Chinook, Coho, Steelhead, and Bull trout runs blocked by dams for more than a century.
Washington Senator Maria Cantwell says the plan, “is a national model for integrated water storage that will also help one of the most productive agricultural and salmon-spawning areas in our state deal with the devastating impacts of water shortages.”
Thanks to Senator Cantwell’s leadership as the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senator Murray, the Yakima Basin and Washington state can successfully address long-standing water supply challenges and environmental needs, by providing a more reliable and sustainable supply of water to meet agricultural, municipal and environmental needs.
For more information, listen to the stories of people whose lives are impacted by the Yakima Plan at www.yakimariver.org.