Archive for July, 2013


A century later, Sockeye return to Lake Cle Elum

By Hannah Mink, American Rivers

Sockeye Celebration - Photo by Hannah Mink.

Sockeye Celebration – Photo by Hannah Mink.

July 10th was a historic celebration! With the sun high and temperatures too, hundreds gathered on the shores of Lake Cle Elum, dressed in everything from colorful native attire to business suits to chacos to rejoice in the release of sockeye salmon into the lake. Hosted by the Yakama Nation Fisheries and open to the public, the Salmon Celebration Ceremony honored and praised the successful return of Sockeye to the lake, as they make their way to the Cle Elum River. This wasn’t any ordinary salmon release. These salmon are the progeny of the first 1,000 fish initially used to restock the Cle Elum River in 2009. These fish were hatched here in the Yakima Basin, travelled to the ocean, and made the journey back up the Columbia and Yakima rivers to the Roza Dam, located about 40 miles downstream of the lake. They were then loaded into trucks, hauled up beyond Roza and Cle Elum dams, and released today where a crowd applauded and Elders of the Yakama Indian Nation sang prayers in honor of the long journey of these fish that until the recent reintroduction were locally extinct.

Yakama Nation Elder, Gerald Lewis - Photo by Hannah Mink

Yakama Nation Elder, Gerald Lewis – Photo by Hannah Mink

Following the sockeye release were speeches from Tribal Elders, a representative from the Bureau of Reclamation, the state legislature, and others, and more prayers and songs were dedicated. Everyone was then invited to gather around tables and share a feast of fry bread and smoked salmon and elk caught and hunted nearby. Today was a moving celebration of the progress made thus far by the Yakima Nation in bringing back the sockeye. It was also significant in its celebration and recognition of the collaboration which went into and continues to go into efforts to protect and restore habitat in the Yakima River basin. Gathered on the shores and then feasting around tables were local and neighboring tribes, community members, local residents, ecologists, biologists, Public Utility Districts, farmers, environmental groups, and legislators who all came together to celebrate. Many speeches mentioned the importance of blending new science and knowledge with the cultural and historical wisdom of those native to these lands. Today was remarkable and tangible evidence of the shared interest that exists in protecting and revitalizing the species and habitat of the region, as well as the collaboration needed in doing so. The Yakima Nation touched on the spiritual, emotional, and very humbling tones of their success of the returning sockeye to a place where they once spawned in the tens of thousands. Now that this progress has been made, we’ll be looking forward to when the fish will be able to make that same journey without the truck ride from Roza Dam and will travel freely through Cle Elum Lake, downstream to the Yakima River, and out to sea before their return to their home waters. A new fish passage system, as proposed in the Yakima River Basin Integrated Plan, will be the next momentous step for the restoration of Cle Elum sockeye. With the recent funding approval by Washington State Legislature for the Yakima Integrated Plan, this is an exciting time for the region as efforts for protecting this incredible Washington state habitat gain serious momentum!


Yakima Herald-Republic: Water plan money called ‘a home run’

By David LesterJuly 2, 2013

Washington Ecology Director Maia Bellon describes as a “home run” the more than $130 million in state funding the Legislature approved over the weekend for an ambitious plan to meet future water needs for farmers, fish and communities in the Yakima River Basin.

The spending in the state capital budget paired with a bill Gov. Jay Inslee signed late Sunday that commits the state to implement the basin water plan in the future.

Other local winners in the $3.6 billion capital budget are Yakima County, which will likely see more jail-bed rentals, a Lower Valley nitrate clean-up effort already underway, and $1.5 million for the final piece of the three-part Heart of the Cascades land preservation project northwest of Yakima.

But the biggest dollars go to water.

The Yakima River Basin funding includes more than $32 million to begin work on specific elements of the water plan and more than $99 million to purchase 50,000 acres of privately owned timber land in the Teanaway River basin, east of Cle Elum. The purchase, believed to be the largest conservation acquisition in state history, will preserve the area’s watershed and habitat.

Continue reading the story.


Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Now Law!

North Fork Teanaway River

We are celebrating a huge victory this week as the state legislature passed into law a bill that conserves 50,000 acres of land in the picturesque Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.

On June 30th, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the Yakima River Basin: Water, Jobs and Fish bill into law, enacting the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan to address current and future water needs for fish, families and farms in the basin in light of a growing population and shrinking snowpack due to climate change. The bill included funding to acquire 50,000 acres in the Teanaway River Valley to ensure conservation of important headwaters lands in the upper Yakima River Basin.

The Teanaway will be the largest single land acquisition in Washington state in the past 45 years!

A popular destination for superb recreation opportunities, the Teanaway is also the crown jewel of habitat acquisitions in Washington state. It has a critical location in connecting core wildlife habitats on existing public lands. It is also home to one of Washington’s newly returned wolf packs and wintering elk populations and is the best place in the Yakima Basin for salmon and steelhead recovery.

None of this success would have been possible without the leadership and strength of a coalition determined to set differences aside and find common ground in conserving some of our most valuable water and land resources for future generations, including county commissioners, the Yakama Nation, farmers, Governor Inslee, Commissioner Goldmark, Director Anderson, Director Bellon, and state legislators, Sen. Honeyford, Sen. Nelson, Rep. Warnick, Rep. Chandler and Rep. Dunshee. We also thank Forterra, our land trust partner in helping the coalition achieve this goal.

What’s Next?
Our work in the Yakima River Basin is far from over. The Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign is continuing to lead a broader public lands community engagement process to refine the public lands protection plans within the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. The initial lands protection package includes an additional 25,000 acres of land acquisition, 140,000 acres of designations on National Forest lands, and 200 miles of Wild and Scenic River designation.

Fish. Families. Farms.
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