Archive for December, 2012


Water woes create strange bedfellows


Naches River - Thomas O'Keefe

Steve Malloch of National Wildlife Federation and Michael Garrity of American Rivers recently wrote an article on the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan for the December 2012 issue of The Water Report, a monthly newsletter for water lawyers, engineers, regulatory agencies, tribes, municipalities, environmental organizations, and anyone interested in water law, water rights, and water quality in the western U.S.

Learn all the in’s and out’s of water policy  in the Yakima Basin and in the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

A snippet:

As with almost every major river basin in the American West, the Yakima River Basin (Basin) has a history of instituting ambitious water schemes in pursuit of economic development. As is also all too typical, this development came with many initially unconsidered costs: environmental degradation; long-ignored but resurgent tribal treaty rights; litigation; and, most recently, concern — even in this reliably conservative river basin — about an increasingly uncertain climate future.

In an effort to go beyond the decades of water confl icts spawned by this history, the Basin is now also home to another ambitious plan — the Yakima Basin Integrated Water
Resources Management Plan (Yakima Plan) — designed to secure a healthy future for the Basin’s fi sh, farms, forests, and families. The Yakima Plan is the result of an array of
interests in the Basin recognizing that digging entrenched positions still deeper is unlikely to result in a satisfactory resolution for anyone.

The Yakima River is located on the arid east side of Washington state, nestled between the Cascade Mountain crest and the Columbia River.


Yakima Herald-Republic: Grant will help Cowiche Creek fish

by David Lester

December 8, 2012

Meandering through the bottom land northwest of Yakima, Cowiche Creek is the next small piece in the Yakima River Basin salmon recovery puzzle.

An estimated 25 miles of prime fish habitat will be opened to migratory fish in the creek’s upper reaches by the spring of 2014, culminating an effort that has taken a decade.

The project took a major step forward this week when a state board that provide grants for fish habitat improvements awarded nearly $575,000 to remove small irrigation diversions in the creek and provide additional flows for migratory fish, including Steelhead, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Matching funds from federal agencies pushes the project cost to more than $900,000.

“We are proud as a conservation district to move this project forward because it doesn’t impair agriculture,” said Mike Tobin, manager of the North Yakima Conservation District and sponsor of the project. “It keeps agriculture whole and, at the same time, provides tremendous instream flow benefits for fish. That is what the system needs to maximize its potential to produce salmonids.”

Continue reading the story.


Seattle Times: Op-ed: Celebrating and supporting the return of the Cle Elum sockeye

Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Virgil Lewis writes about why it is important to restore the sockeye to Cle Elum Lake and Cle Elum River.

by Virgil Lewis

Special to The Times

December 6, 2012

When I was a young child, my father used to take me fishing. I caught my very first salmon on the Yakima River. As I grew up, I also witnessed our Yakama treaty-protected salmon runs diminishing to the point of extinction.

In 1997, I assisted with startup operations at Yakama’s Cle Elum Research and Supplementation Facility for spring chinook salmon. I still remember that very first adult spring chinook that returned to the river to spawn. Now I am a Yakama Nation Tribal Council member and, in these last weeks, I have witnessed the return of the sockeye to Cle Elum Lake and Cle Elum River.

Sockeye only exist from Northern California to Alaska. They are unique among salmon because their young live and feed for two years in lakes before journeying to the ocean, and their adults stop in these lakes, where some will feed again, before proceeding upriver to spawn.

Continue reading the story.


Ellensburg Daily Record: Take a Hike: Preserving the Yakima Canyon

by Dick Ambrose, contributing columnist

November 30, 2012

Not long ago we drove through Yakima Canyon and I couldn’t help thinking about why we enjoy living here.

The beautiful valley with its rich soil, surrounded by rolling hills and mountains with views of Mount Stuart and friends. And nearby is arguably the most scenic and uniquely spectacular canyon in the universe as we know it.

So it makes sense to preserve it to the best of our ability for our continued enjoyment and for the enjoyment of our grandchildren and future generations.

As we drove through the canyon the colors were startling. The reds and oranges of the shrubs riverside, the golden leaves of cottonwoods and aspens, the black basalt cliffs, and the tan grasses, with the liquid light of the river running through it — a more beautiful scene we could not imagine.


We spotted some bighorn sheep as we drove along and some deer on the hillside. A bald eagle was perched on a branch of a large ponderosa pine. “Wishermen” wading and floating the river were casting flies to where they were sure lie a fat, hungry rainbow trout.

We passed Umtanum Creek where a bridge crosses the river. From there a trail heads into the Umtanum Canyon. It is broad at the entrance and narrows as you go deeper.

A mile from the river you can see remnants of an old homestead, where apple, pear and walnut trees still produce their fruit. In the spring look for lilacs and flowering quince that still bloom at the site. Beavers on the job are always attempting to reroute the creek. Sometimes in the process they drown the trail in places.

We then passed the other major trailhead which goes straight up the hill to the east from the highway, presenting would-be hikers with good exercise and great views of the Kittitas Valley and the canyon below.

There are many other excellent hiking opportunities in the canyon. It is no wonder that Ellensburg residents take out-of-town guests to marvel at the beauty in our own backyard.

Continue reading the story.

Fish. Families. Farms.
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