Interior and USDA Officials Announce New Partnerships to Support Water Management and Conservation in the Yakima River Basin
YAKIMA, Wash. – Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor and Deputy Under Secretary for U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills today concluded a two-day visit to the Yakima River Basin where they met with local stakeholders, including the Yakama Nation, to assess progress on several projects associated with the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.
Yesterday, Deputy Secretary Connor and Under Secretary Mills participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony and tour to mark the recent completion of a new access road and bridge over the spillway of Cle Elum Dam. The new road and bridge will provide access for construction of new Cle Elum Dam Fish Passage Facilities, a key project of the Integrated Plan. Along the tour they met with Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Workgroup members and viewed sockeye salmon spawning in tributaries above Cle Elum Reservoir. The Yakama Nation’s fisheries program is restoring one of only four remaining sockeye populations in the Columbia River Basin.
“By using a watershed-scale approach and working with the state, the Yakama Nation, and a diverse range of stakeholders, the Yakima Basin has become a model for watershed collaboration,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “The variety of projects still underway will help to ensure that the Yakima Basin continues to be an excellent example of success in ecosystem restoration and sustainable water resource management while accounting for the impacts of long-term climate change.”
Deputy Secretary Connor and Under Secretary Mills also signed a Proclamation to support the collaborative efforts of the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, a joint program between the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to proactively improve the health and resiliency of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the Yakima River Basin Watershed. This proactive commitment will protect municipal and agricultural water supplies, infrastructure and ecosystem health.
The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, and the USDA work closely to address water supply and demand imbalances. Earlier this year, Interior and USDA announced more than $47 million in investments to help water districts and producers on private working lands better conserve water resources. Ensuring the ongoing coordination of these federal programs can further stretch limited water supplies, fulfilling a commitment made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Reclamation Commissioner Lopez in June this year.
While in Washington, Deputy Secretary Connor also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Roza Irrigation District, the Kittitas Reclamation District and the Natural Resource Investment Center to find practical ways to develop and secure non-federal public and private financing for projects related to the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. The agreement supports the irrigation districts in exploring financial partnerships to fund implementation of Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plant.
The NRIC was announced in December 2015 to spur partnerships with the private sector to develop creative financing opportunities that support economic development goals while advancing the Department’s resource stewardship mission. The Center uses market-based tools and innovative public-private collaborations to increase investment in water conservation and critical water infrastructure, as well as promote investments that conserve important habitat in a manner that advances efficient permitting and meaningful landscape-level conservation.