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.