Archive for July, 2012


Ellensburg Daily Record series on Yakima water plan

Over the past week, the Ellensburg Daily Record produced a series about the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Below are snippets from each article and a link so you can read the full story.

Advocates seek wider support from public – July 7, 2012

In the more than 30 years Urban Eberhart’s been involved with trying to increase water supplies in the drought-prone Yakima River Basin, he’s never seen a long-range water supply plan like this one.

Eberhart, a Kittitas Valley irrigation district board member and tree fruit and timothy hay grower, wants everyone to know about it.

A long-term water fix: Plan could rewrite water future – July 7, 2012

Proponents of the proposed Yakima Basin water resource management plan say it could alleviate water shortage and conservation issues the Yakima Basin has struggled with for decades.

The proposal has garnered widespread backing from a diverse assortment of stakeholders in the Yakima Basin, but some groups oppose elements of it. The proposed construction of two new dams and the creation of National Recreation Areas in the Okanognan-Wenatchee National Forest have proven the most controversial aspects of the plan.

The plan aims to address current and future water needs and improve water management in the Yakima River Basin. If implemented, it would add more surface water storage capacity in the Yakima Basin, create fish passage at dams, acquire and protect about 70,000 acres of private land and encourage water conservation.

Questions and answers about the water plan – July 7, 2012

Questions and answers about the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan:

Q: What is the Yakima Basin water plan?

A: The plan is intended to address current and future water needs and improve water management in the Yakima River Basin.

Q: How much will the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan cost?

A: The plan could cost $3.2 million to $6 billion over 30 years. Some proponents have described it as one of the largest ecological restoration projects undertaken in the United States.

Yakima Basin water plan benefits fish, irrigators – July 9, 2012

During a drought year, Kittitas County Irrigation District farmers growing timothy hay watch water stop flowing and crops weaken. Fields become patchy as weeds take over.

It’s a scene supporters of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan hope the proposal will eliminate in the future.

Long-term Water Fix: Recreation areas are a point of debate – July 10, 2012

Land conservation measures in the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Management Plan made it more appealing to some environmental organizations, but other groups have balked at a proposal to establish two new national recreation areas in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

A subcommittee formed by the working group that created the Yakima Basin water plan recommended creating national recreation areas in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The proposed national recreation areas would span about 140,000 acres of Upper Kittitas County.


I blame it on the neighbors! Snowmobiling in the Teanaway Valley

By Tracy Rooney

Hiking, biking, lift assisted and backcountry skiing are very familiar recreation activities for me. But snowmobiles? I kept saying I wasn’t a motorhead. I thought they were somewhat noisy and stinky. Not so much now — but certainly ten years ago before the riders’ desires for less intrusive snow machines made their wishes known. Hey, the snowmobile manufactures knew what was good for business, so they figured it out too. Less stink, less noise. It was no longer just about the adrenaline of horsepower but a broader form of winter recreation that could be shared by young and old alike.

Anyway, being a weekender in a valley that seemed like ground zero for snowmobiling and with my desire to get to know my neighbors better, I bought some used snowmobiles. It’s a ten year old decision that makes me grin every time I think about it.

As a newbie, I knew that I needed to get some “ride time” in before adventuring out with my then seven- and nine-year-old kids and somewhat skeptical wife. The neighbors were only happy to oblige and off I went. I had covered a lot of the local territory by foot and bike, but knew that winter conditions would be more challenging and unforgiving. What I hadn’t thought about was the distances that could be covered in a relatively short amount of time with snow blanketing the ground. It soon became clear to me that my list of favorite valley viewpoints was about to expand! I also quickly found out that snowmobiling wasn’t a sit down, passive sport. Just like in skiing, new skills would be required to get from point a to b. If you got your snowmobile stuck, it wasn’t as easy as just flopping over and pointing down the hill like you do when downhill skiing. But it was all good fun!

The extensive network of groomed logging roads in the valley is impressive. These well-defined trails made “doubling up” on each sled with a kid a great way to explore and build up confidence to check out new trails and vistas. Soon my garage seemed to have shrunk as we each had our own snowmobile and an expanded winter play area. While the colors of fall are hard to beat, the stark winter landscapes are even better.

At first reluctant to get involved in snowmobiling, I’m now one of the valley’s biggest enthusiasts. My initial concern regarding snowmobile interference with wildlife has been replaced with awe as I check out the tracks of the many animals that move around the valley in the winter via the groomed trail system. Having seen the combination of deer, elk, coyote, rabbit and now even wolf tracks on a trail is truly an amazing sight!

I’m also more relaxed with the knowledge that snowmobiling does not have to be in conflict with skiing and snowshoeing. It’s an awfully big valley. In our North Fork neighborhood the snowmobilers are often called upon to “break trail” for others who prefer the non-mechanized form of winter transport. And we gladly do so!

As a family, we all look forward to those annual sunny Teanaway holiday snow outings and the view of the Stuarts from Teanaway Butte, Red Top and other local landmarks. And as a neighborhood activity, I’ve been rewarded with a common bond that has led to a lifetime of close Teanaway friendships.

Snowmobiling has become a shared neighborhood activity. In the fall we gather to “brush out” trails. Once snow has fallen, and the risk of errant vehicles on the closed logging roads has passed, we get the gates unlocked and opened for winter fun. It’s truly an activity that spans generations. While he’s an anomaly, one of my riding buddies is in his late eighties!

The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan presents a rare opportunity for elected officials, recreational enthusiasts and conservationists to seek out common ground. Yes, as a snowmobiler and mountain biker, I’m reluctant to see thousands of acres of riding area closed by an expanded wilderness area. But as a realist, I’m very enthused with the prospect of also having what is currently more than 46 thousand acres of private timberlands removed from the prospect of residential development and forever protected for recreational use, expanded habit areas and continued use as a “community forest” with sound logging and grazing practices. It sounds like a fair trade off for “no access, private property” signs being something that my children and their children will not have to encounter in our extensive Teanaway backyard!

It’s all about finding common ground, tradeoffs that make sense and working towards goals that will benefit many for generations to come! The Integrated Plan has a lot in it for many. I’m in. I hope you are!

Tracy Rooney is a Teanaway Valley resident and active member of the Teanaway Snowmobile Club. You can view a map of groomed snowmobile trails in the area. Email for more information about the Teanaway Snowmobile Club.


National Recreation Areas – Protecting lands for People

By Cynthia Wilkerson, The Wilderness Society

The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan has two primary goals – to provide water security for agriculture and provide water for fish and wildlife needs. Lands in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest have a critical role to play with both goals. Headwaters of the Yakima River, adjacent to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and roadless areas in both the Teanaway and Manastash-Taneum areas, stand out in terms of their watershed values. These lands capture and hold cold, clean water for fish and provide important habitat for wildlife. In order to ensure that the lands and waters continue to provide these services into the future, they must be protected. One way to protect some of these lands is through a National Recreation Area designation.

We cannot ignore the fact that the Teanaway and the Manastash-Tanuem are meccas for recreation. People travel from all around Washington State to enjoy the superb hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, motorcycling, jeeping, backcountry skiing, hunting, angling and rafting you can find in the Yakima Basin. Recreationists flock to the glorious mountains, swift streams and rolling meadows. These recreationists are vital to Kittitas County’s local economy. How can these lands be managed for their ecological and watershed values while allowing continued human use?

We think the answer is a combination of wilderness and National Recreation Area (NRA) land designations.

NRAs are a type of designation for federally managed lands – land that’s owned by every American. NRA designation protects an area for its recreation opportunities as well as clean water, healthy forests and thriving wildlife populations. That’s why we are supporting the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan’s NRA designation recommendations in the Upper Yakima and Manastash-Taneum areas.

This idea is certainly not new. National Recreation Area designation has been used over 40 times across our country’s public lands. These designations embrace a broad spectrum of public lands recreation – from primitive to motorized. We envision Yakima Basin NRAs as an opportunity to embrace the variety of activities that are currently occurring on those lands, to manage them so that the lands can sustain quality experiences into the future, and to ensure necessary funding for the Forest Service to plan, enforce and implement the management needs of these public lands. As such, they will also serve as powerful economic engines for Kittitas County – people will be drawn to these places to work, live near, view and recreate on these special lands, and will spend their money locally to support these experiences.

As we continue to work with others to define the boundaries and management direction of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan’s recommended National Recreation Areas, as well as recommended wilderness areas, we are cognizant of the balance that is being struck between human use and ecological integrity. Meeting both the needs of the land and the needs of people is key to a successful Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.


The Wilderness Society’s National Recreation Area Report


Fish. Families. Farms.
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