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.