By David Lester
February 25, 2013
ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Twelve years ago this month, Manastash Creek became the epicenter of conflict over the future of fish runs in the Yakima River Basin.
An environmental group, the Washington Environmental Council, had issued a notice of intent to sue irrigators under the Endangered Species Act, contending that barriers erected to allow for irrigation harmed threatened fish by preventing them from reaching 25 miles of prime spawning and rearing habitat in the creek’s headwaters, west of here.
After some early, tense negotiations, the council, local irrigators, tribal, state and federal agencies decided that same year to work together to solve the two key goals — restoring historic fish runs and sustaining irrigated agriculture that began in Manastash Creek in 1871, just a few short years after the Civil War.
It took the groups six years, but they reached an important agreement in 2007 on how to restore the creek while assuring farmers they would have the water they need.
“I don’t know if anyone would have predicted 10 years ago this is where we would be,” said Anna Lael, manager of the Kittitas Conservation District, one of the organizations partnering in the project to restore the creek. “It has been an interesting process to watch and be part of.”