By Michael Garrity, American Rivers
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony in the Yakima Basin to mark the completion of an irrigation canal improvement project that puts water back in the Yakima River for the benefit of salmon and steelhead, while at the same time providing a more precise and reliable water delivery system for local farmers.
The project will save 30,000 acre-feet of water or nearly as much as what Bumping Lake reservoir holds today.
A variety of dignitaries from the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District, Yakama Nation, Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spoke about the value of cooperation and collaboration in getting this $45 million project completed with a combination of federal, state and Irrigation District funding. Both the Irrigation District and Tribal representatives noted that they entered the collaboration with some trepidation after decades of conflict, but that projects like this help build trust as they seek to work with an even broader community of stakeholders on similar future projects that are part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. The Integrated Plan includes a wide assortment of new water conservation and efficiency projects that will put an additional 170,000 acre feet of water back in the river for salmon and steelhead.