By Mike Johnston
January 26, 2013
Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell believes county government is asking for reasonable compensation to offset the impact of rural lands becoming publicly owned in Upper County and in the Yakima River Canyon southeast of Ellensburg.
The landownership changes, along with other land-use proposals in the Yakima River basin, will increase long-term costs to county government and increase landowners’ tax burden, Jewell said earlier this week.
These can be made up for in a variety of ways, Jewell said.
“What we are asking for is realistic and, frankly, very conservative,” Jewell told a basinwide committee. “We know there will be criticisms to what we want, but we have a responsibility to the citizens of Kittitas County.”
Purchasing private land
The purchase of 71,000 acres of privately owned shrub-steppe and forested lands, mostly in Kittitas County, is part of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. Its goal is to lessen for years to come the impact of droughts in the three-county basin that already has more demands put upon it for water than the amount it annually produces.
The plan is a 20-year, $5 billion government-funded effort to increase basin water supplies for fish runs, wildlife habitat, irrigation and domestic uses, along with improving fish passage.
The future purchase of the lands is aimed at protecting the ecosystem of the Yakima River system’s water shed from development and to enhance its natural features to preserve the quantity and quality of water supplies.
The purchases of privately held lands in the Yakima Canyon, areas in the headwaters of Manastash Creek, Taneum Creek and the Little Naches River and high elevation portions of the Teanaway River Basin also are to offset the impact of enlarging a Cascade mountain reservoir and building a new one in the Yakima Canyon.