Earlier this month, Governor Gregoire toured the Yakima Basin. During her trip, she spoke with the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper about the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Watch the video and let us know what you think by commenting below.
Archive for August, 2012
By David Lester
August 2, 2012
Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a Yakima River Basin water policy initiative Thursday, promising to push for $20 million in state funds and legislation that commits the state to work toward a plan to improve water supplies for farms, fish and communities in the three-county basin.
The outgoing governor, meeting in Yakima with a wide-ranging group that devised the plan, said her still-developing proposal to lawmakers and the continued support of all basin interests will “set the table for the future.”
“We have to put this in concrete so no one will take it away from us,” Gregoire told irrigators, fish agencies, local, state and tribal governments, and environmental groups that put the expensive plan together.
The state has already contributed about $6 million to the plan, known as the integrated water resource management plan.
Additional funds she will seek from the 2013 capital budget will be the state’s down payment to attract federal funds and advance the $5 billion plan for new storage, fish passage, water conservation, land protection, water banking and water storage and delivery system improvements.
But Gregoire, who leaves office in January and will hand off her proposal to a new administration and the Legislature, cautioned basin water interests to stay united or the plan will fail.
“Once we break up, we will not get a dime. We will be just another place in the West fighting for water,” she said.
By Michael Garrity, American Rivers
One of my goals this summer was to get to know the Teanaway River watershed in the upper Yakima Basin a bit better. I have backpacked extensively in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness headwaters of the Cle Elum drainage, including the Waptus, Cooper, and Cle Elum rivers, since I was a little kid. Yet aside from a little bit of trout fishing, a little bit of hiking and a lot of driving on Highway 97 to visit my folks in Wenatchee, I hadn’t been in the Teanaway much.
I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten out in the Teanaway for four different day trips this summer – two hikes, a fly over and a kayak float, with hopefully more to come. These trips confirmed my impressions of the Teanaway from the little bit of exploration I’d already done and what I’d heard from friends and colleagues – it’s a vast, beautiful and unique landscape that is teetering precariously between restoration and unsustainable development.
On my hikes to Esmerelda/Esmeralda Basin (the maps and hiking guides can’t seem to agree on the spelling) and Navaho Pass, much of which is recommended for wilderness designation by the Forest Service and is being considered for wilderness in the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, I was struck by three things:
- This was an even bigger snow year than I thought – even on the east slope of the Cascades – lots of snow and lots of runoff that is just now melting/slowing down;
- The Teanaway country’s stark beauty, made a bit less stark by all the wildflowers and some surprisingly big, old Douglas firs growing at atypically high elevations; and
- The vastness of the landscape. It’s bigger than I imagined, which I suppose is one reason why it’s such great elk and wolf habitat.
Between the two hikes, I floated the lower Teanaway River on inflatable kayaks with Cynthia Wilkerson of The Wilderness Society and Jill Wasberg of American Rivers.
I was struck by the relatively small amount of water in the Teanaway even in this big water year. Given the rushing streams in the headwaters, one would expect more. In addition to highlighting the need for more water conservation on local farms, which the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan will help fund, this shows the need for a couple of actions that would be made possible by buying private Teanaway land bordering the river – protecting existing flows and restoring the river and its floodplain.
Protecting the flows and restoring the surrounding land will only help the salmon and steelhead that live in these waters thrive. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries department, the Teanaway River watershed may be the most critical place to restore steelhead in the entire Yakima Basin, and restoring steelhead there would be a big contributor to the recovery of the entire mid-Columbia steelhead population.
In other words, the future of the Teanaway is in many ways the future of the rest of the Yakima Basin – either we save it and restore it now or the opportunity will pass us by.