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Jun13

KCTS 9 – Explore the Outdoors: Yakima River Canyon

Original articles and images posted to KCTS 9, May 17, 2016

by John Taylor

You might sit on one of these ridges on some warm spring afternoon just to watch the Yakima River glide through the canyon below. You’ll swear that river hasn’t really moved, hasn’t changed, hasn’t heard anything anyone has said for 10,000 years.
The Yakima River Canyon. Photo by KCTS 9

The Yakima River Canyon. Photo by KCTS 9

It’s one of those Northwest constants, you might tell yourself. A comfort in an upside-down world of computerized chaos and political provocation. A free spirit that’s oblivious to the hum of Interstate 82 traffic over the crests to the east, the buzz of boat motors on its surface or the throaty snarls of Harleys that make their way up and down scenic State Route 821 along its banks.
And yet…

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Jun08

YBIP does TEDx

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Recently Steve Malloch, a longtime member of the Yakima Plan coalition, was invited to present a TEDx Talk on the YBIP.  If you’ve ever wondered how or why the Yakima Plan came to be, or had questions about how to develop a similar stakeholder model, Steve demystifies those processes with plain language and good humor.

TEDx Talks Yakima said:

“Focusing on the intersection of social relationships, natural resources and taking risks, Steve Malloch takes us on a journey through the process of collaboration. In so doing, he shares his lessons from addressing age-old positions around the use of water by presenting an alternative model for resolving conflict. Highlighting the courage of those risk takers building trust in contentious times, Steve’s talk offers great inspiration for us all.”

May16

No Joke: Compromise on Eastern WA Water and Lands

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Guest post by Nicky Pasi, Conservation Outreach Associate, American Rivers
Photographs by Keith Lazelle; Benj Drummond/LightHawk

Originally posted on The Nature Conservancy WA’s Field Notes

There are so many proverbs, pithy quips and wry one-liners about western water conflicts, you could bind them up in a respectably thick book. But here’s a new one, less of a joke than it might seem:

“An irrigator, an environmentalist, and a tribal member walk into a Senator’s office … and the room doesn’t erupt?”

Question mark intentional. It’s an unexpected scenario, but it’s exactly how the people of the Yakima Basin have decided to address their many, often conflicting, demands on water.

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Apr20

U.S. Senate Passes Yakima Bill!

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From Left to Right: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK). Photo Courtesy of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Yesterday, S. 1694, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Act Phase III of 2015, was unanimously amended to the Energy Policy Modernization Act.  Today, that energy bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12.

What does that mean for the Yakima Plan?  It puts us one step closer to achieving federal authorization and funding for fish passage, irrigation efficiency and habitat protection projects.  It brings the federal government closer to the bar set by the State of Washington in 2013, and it validates the Plan, yet again, as a model for comprehensive water management.

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Mar30

Yakima Herald: Basin water plan plaudits well-timed, well-deserved

by Yakima Herald Editorial Board

Decades in the making, the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is notable for the way it has brought together oft-conflicting interest groups. The plan entails compromise — a toxic word in polarized political times — but the compromise has offered something for the many involved parties. Among them are agriculture, irrigators, the Yakama Nation, fishing interests, environmental groups, and local, county and state governments.

IMG_2322[2]And now, the plan is finding favor at the highest level of the federal government, in large part because of that compromise.

The integrated plan took center stage Tuesday at the White House Water Summit in Washington, D.C. The Family Farm Alliance, an agriculture industry group that is based in Oregon, pointed to the integrated plan as an example of local water-use solutions that can serve as a model at the national level.

The integrated plan wasn’t the only Central Washington water project gaining attention at the summit. The Methow Instream Flow Improvement Project also won praise for overcoming years of squabbling and finding common ground between environmental and economic interests.

The Family Farm Alliance, in a report that was presented at the summit, says its main objective as an organization “is to help ensure the continued availability of adequate irrigation water supplies to Western farmers.” The report publicizes “case studies that highlight real-world examples of water conservation, water transfers and markets, aging infrastructure problems, watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement.”

To those ends, the Yakima Basin plan won plaudits for collaboration, ecosystem restoration and new storage. In the words of the report, “The solutions put forward by the Yakima Plan restore ecosystem functions, increase fish habitat and population recovery, improve the stability of stream flows and ensure the reliability of agricultural irrigation and municipal water supply. (The plan) was developed through a collaborative public process where stakeholders weighed their needs versus their wants, came to understand the views of their traditional opposition, and negotiated to reach a consensus.”

Right to left: Tom Tebb, WA Dept. of Ecology Director of the Office of Columbia River, and Urban Eberhard, Kittitas Reclamation District Manager, on their way to the White House Water Summit

Right to left: Tom Tebb, WA Dept. of Ecology Director of the Office of Columbia River, and Urban Eberhard, Kittitas Reclamation District Manager, on their way to the White House Water Summit

The report also highlighted the Kittitas Reclamation District’s response to last summer’s historic drought, especially through its rerouting of water meant for downstream users into nine dry tributaries.

The alliance’s report notes not only the benefit to the tributaries’ habitat, but also how the reclamation district worked with irrigation districts, the state Department of Ecology, the Yakama Nation, the Washington Department of Fish Wildlife and Trout Unlimited.

This recognition comes at a key time for the project at the federal level. Washington’s U.S. senators, Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and 4th District Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse have introduced bills to provide federal funding for the $4 billion project, and that stands to be a tough sell in tight fiscal times.

This recognition shines a light on the extensive groundwork that has gone into the plan, as well as the support among the many stakeholders. All these are essential to winning federal support.

The plaudits are well-deserved and well-timed. The benefits of the integrated plan are obvious to residents and businesses in the Yakima Basin; now it’s time for Congress to take notice.

Originally published by the Yakima Herald, March 24, 2016.

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