By Courtney Flatt
Northwest Public Radio
May 16, 2012
Turn on your faucet, and you’re pretty much guaranteed water will pour out. But managing the water that’s running down our mountainsides and into our streams is not that simple, especially in Washington’s Yakima Valley.
Combative court cases and political in-fighting led to a my-way-or-the-highway atmosphere for nearly 40 years.
But all that changed in the Yakima Basin about three years ago. People began to realize they weren’t getting anywhere alone. And if they didn’t come up with solutions soon, everyone could suffer irreparable losses. Fish could disappear from the river. Farmers could lose their orchards. People could be stopped from building homes or businesses.
That’s when a group of around 30 stakeholders came together to find a solution that would appease concerns. What they’ve decided on is a massive undertaking, but one most think has a good chance to succeed. The Washington Department of Ecology has named the plan a model for future watershed management in the state. And now, groups in Oregon and Idaho are closely watching to see if they might be able to come up with collaborations of their own.