Public News Service: Yakima Basin Water Plan Inches Forward

By Chris Thomas
Public News Service

April 5, 2012

YAKIMA, Wash. – It has been years in the making, but a plan to create a more stable water supply for drought-prone central Washington is ready for its public debut. The three counties involved – Benton, Kittitas and Yakima – have all said they’re on board.

The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan outlines increased water storage, greater water conservation efforts and more, with a total price tag of at least $4 billion. After 30 years of studying the water supply problems, taking action is no longer optional, says Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell.

“We look at it as a necessity – not just from irrigators and cropland, although that’s a very important part, but also from a municipal and domestic rural supply – because those are challenges that we face today in our basin. And those are only going to get worse.”

“We sat down and worked out some things that we thought might be of benefit to the citizens of Kittitas County, that could help offset potentially some of the concerns that we have with adding to more public land within our county – and one of those was the NRA designation.”

He says the hold-up now will be figuring out how to pay for the plan, when state and federal funds are tight. But having gained such wide approval – from counties and farmers, to the Yakama Nation and conservation groups – could make that a little easier.

“I think that is monumental, and that’s being recognized, at both the state and federal levels. I think with that spirit of collaboration and cooperation, we’re going to be successful. But it’s going to take some time.”

Jewell says the next step is to discuss the timeline for the plan with local residents.

The plan is online at www.ecy.wa.gov.

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