Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Apr20

U.S. Senate Passes Yakima Bill!

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From Left to Right: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK). Photo Courtesy of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Yesterday, S. 1694, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Act Phase III of 2015, was unanimously amended to the Energy Policy Modernization Act.  Today, that energy bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12.

What does that mean for the Yakima Plan?  It puts us one step closer to achieving federal authorization and funding for fish passage, irrigation efficiency and habitat protection projects.  It brings the federal government closer to the bar set by the State of Washington in 2013, and it validates the Plan, yet again, as a model for comprehensive water management.

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Mar30

Yakima Herald: Basin water plan plaudits well-timed, well-deserved

by Yakima Herald Editorial Board

Decades in the making, the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is notable for the way it has brought together oft-conflicting interest groups. The plan entails compromise — a toxic word in polarized political times — but the compromise has offered something for the many involved parties. Among them are agriculture, irrigators, the Yakama Nation, fishing interests, environmental groups, and local, county and state governments.

IMG_2322[2]And now, the plan is finding favor at the highest level of the federal government, in large part because of that compromise.

The integrated plan took center stage Tuesday at the White House Water Summit in Washington, D.C. The Family Farm Alliance, an agriculture industry group that is based in Oregon, pointed to the integrated plan as an example of local water-use solutions that can serve as a model at the national level.

The integrated plan wasn’t the only Central Washington water project gaining attention at the summit. The Methow Instream Flow Improvement Project also won praise for overcoming years of squabbling and finding common ground between environmental and economic interests.

The Family Farm Alliance, in a report that was presented at the summit, says its main objective as an organization “is to help ensure the continued availability of adequate irrigation water supplies to Western farmers.” The report publicizes “case studies that highlight real-world examples of water conservation, water transfers and markets, aging infrastructure problems, watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement.”

To those ends, the Yakima Basin plan won plaudits for collaboration, ecosystem restoration and new storage. In the words of the report, “The solutions put forward by the Yakima Plan restore ecosystem functions, increase fish habitat and population recovery, improve the stability of stream flows and ensure the reliability of agricultural irrigation and municipal water supply. (The plan) was developed through a collaborative public process where stakeholders weighed their needs versus their wants, came to understand the views of their traditional opposition, and negotiated to reach a consensus.”

Right to left: Tom Tebb, WA Dept. of Ecology Director of the Office of Columbia River, and Urban Eberhard, Kittitas Reclamation District Manager, on their way to the White House Water Summit

Right to left: Tom Tebb, WA Dept. of Ecology Director of the Office of Columbia River, and Urban Eberhard, Kittitas Reclamation District Manager, on their way to the White House Water Summit

The report also highlighted the Kittitas Reclamation District’s response to last summer’s historic drought, especially through its rerouting of water meant for downstream users into nine dry tributaries.

The alliance’s report notes not only the benefit to the tributaries’ habitat, but also how the reclamation district worked with irrigation districts, the state Department of Ecology, the Yakama Nation, the Washington Department of Fish Wildlife and Trout Unlimited.

This recognition comes at a key time for the project at the federal level. Washington’s U.S. senators, Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and 4th District Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse have introduced bills to provide federal funding for the $4 billion project, and that stands to be a tough sell in tight fiscal times.

This recognition shines a light on the extensive groundwork that has gone into the plan, as well as the support among the many stakeholders. All these are essential to winning federal support.

The plaudits are well-deserved and well-timed. The benefits of the integrated plan are obvious to residents and businesses in the Yakima Basin; now it’s time for Congress to take notice.

Originally published by the Yakima Herald, March 24, 2016.

Mar29

Ellensburg Daily Record: A big week for regional water issues

 

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by Daily Record Editorial Board

It’s been a big week for water issues in Central Washington and beyond.

The Yakima River Basin integrated water management plan was highlighted at a White House Water Summit on Tuesday as part of United National World Water Day. The summit drew attention to a number of issues, from drought to the water quality crisis in Flint, Mich., with an emphasis on what the federal government could to help.

The Yakima River integrated plan was presented as an example of how cooperation and collaboration can result in better management of water for economic and environmental benefits. The Yakima plan, which involves conservation and water storage projects, has brought together irrigators, the Yakama Nation, business interests, conservation groups and federal, state and local government agencies.

It’s nice to see the project get some well deserved national attention.

It’s also important to realize we’re still in the early stages of the plan. Significant funding and leadership will be needed to get a long list of projects off the ground. The entire plan is supposed to cost $4 billion and take 30 years to complete.

It’s also fair to note that there’s been some opposition to parts of the plan, namely the Bumping Lake water storage project and a permanent pumping plant at Lake Kachess. There’s also been objection to the overall cost of the effort.

That’s where leadership comes in, both at the local and federal level. Our elected officials are going to have a tough road ahead to keep the players (and non-players) on the path of compromise and collaboration. They will need support.

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement project in Oregon also was lauded initially for its collaborative approach, but it’s been a tough road for that effort, which includes dam removal. Nothing about water in the West is easy.

As part of the summit, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a study about the future of water supplies in the Columbia River basin. It found that warming temperatures will continue across the basin. While there will not be significant changes in the mean annual precipitation, the timing will change.

At three areas studied in detail — the Columbia River above The Dalles, Snake River at Brownlee Dam and the Yakima River at Parker — snow water equivalent is expected to decline.

The assessment projected a trend that indicated there would be an increase in runoff from December to March and a decrease in runoff from April to July.

The big picture of the Yakima plan is to make sure people and nature can continue to flourish and thrive in Central Washington for generations to come, even as climate change affects our way of life. It’s a tall order. This week’s events are a reminder that everyone needs to keep talking.

Originally posted at the Ellensburg Daily Record, March 24, 2016.

Nov19

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan legislation advances through U.S. Senate committee

SEATTLE – Today federal legislation to protect and enhance the Yakima River basin’s fisheries, ecosystem and water supply was unanimously passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The passage of S. 1694 – known as The Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015 — through committee represents a milestone for this legislation, which authorizes a federal role in the implementation of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan’s fishery and water management decisions. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Proponents of the legislation anticipate that a companion bill will soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Yakima Plan is a balanced approach agreed upon by a diverse coalition of conservation groups, irrigators, farmers, sportsmen and women, local, state and federal governments, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. S. 1694 authorizes federal involvement in projects that improve water security for farmers through water conservation, water marketing, and more access to water stored in an existing reservoir during drought years. The bill also authorizes projects to restore fish passage at two federal reservoirs and to protect and restore habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

“Senator Cantwell’s leadership will help restore abundant salmon and steelhead runs in the Yakima Basin, including in its wilderness headwaters,” said Michael Garrity, American Rivers’ Director of Rivers of Puget Sound and the Columbia Basin. “This legislation is a win-win for the Yakima Basin’s fish, families and farms.”

S. 1694 expands upon past phases of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which focused on fish passage and water efficiencies, and recent land conservation actions funded by the State of Washington through the Yakima Plan.

“The Yakima Plan is a model for integrated water management and climate resiliency that reduces drought impacts, protects our public lands as well as waters, and considers farmers, fish and families equally,” said Ben Greuel, Washington State Director for The Wilderness Society. “The partnerships we’ve created make us more adaptable when faced with a changing climate. Congressional recognition and support of that flexibility gives me hope to see similar integrated planning efforts, and successes, across the west.”

A drought last summer in the Yakima Basin highlighted the value of the Yakima Plan’s fish and wildlife habitat and water management measures.  The partnerships built through the plan resulted in rapid action to provide flow in streams that would have otherwise run dry, securing important habitat for salmon and steelhead.

“This year we’ve seen amazing partnerships and cooperation forming around water use in the Yakima Basin,” said Lisa Pelly, Director of the Washington Water Project of Trout Unlimited. “By working together, we’ve kept farmers afloat and enough water in the rivers for fish and wildlife. This legislation will guarantee that kind of innovative management in the future, and we are truly grateful to Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray for their visionary support.”-189

 

Jan30

Outdoor Recreation Study Highlights the Importance of Recreation and Healthy Ecosystems

By Justin Bezold, Trout Unlimited-Washington Water Project

A recent study commissioned by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office highlights the importance of the natural environment to Washington’s economy. The “Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State,” prepared by Earth Economics, gives readers a glimpse into the habits of outdoor enthusiasts in Washington. On average, Washingtonians spend 56 days/year playing outside. After adding non-residents, the report estimates 446 million participant days generate $21.6 billion in revenue, with the highest expenditures associated with public waters. In total, outdoor recreation supports almost 200,000 jobs in Washington—more than either the information technology or aerospace sectors—neither of which have a strong presence in the Yakima Basin.

More importantly, the study demonstrates the influence of healthy ecosystems on local economies. The Yakima River Basin is an area that experiences disproportionate public use and has a large impact on the state’s economy. The report provides strong economic arguments supporting the implementation of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resources Management Plan (“YBIP”)—the multi-year, collaborative effort designed to address water concerns in the face of climate change in the Yakima River Basin. Properly implemented, the YBIP will provide a foundation for restoring and maintaining the natural environment and maintaining a viable agricultural economy.

With a regional economy based on natural resources, recreation is vital to the economic stability and viability of Yakima Basin counties. Compared to statewide averages, the Basin experiences a high number of visitors from other areas. At less than 60 miles from downtown Seattle and with over 1.7 million acres of public lands available, the Yakima Basin is ideally situated for urban residents looking for a weekend escape. The study also suggests that Kittitas County receives the biggest benefit, as it gets over four times as many visitor days as there are county residents.

In addition to public lands, the Yakima Basin also draws visitors with the Yakima River. The report points out that generally, recreation involving public waters results in high expenditures. Though the study does not split spending by water body, the Yakima River is Washington’s only blue ribbon trout stream. As such, the river is a destination for both anglers seeking high quality fishing and boaters and swimmers in a unique environment.

Of even greater importance to the Yakima Basin, the study also examines the value of ecosystem services. Defined as “the benefits people derive from nature, free of charge [,] . . . such as breathable air, drinkable water, flood risk reduction, waste treatment, and stable atmospheric conditions,” ecosystem services are paramount to modern life. Though the report focuses on recreation as a type of ecosystem service, additional services of wildlife habitat and water quality—both critical elements of the YBIP—are included in the valuation. The total value of the ecosystem services that support recreation in Washington range from $115 to $216 billion annually. This means that Washingtonians derive great economic value from merely having high-quality natural areas.

The report does split out the value that rivers and lakes provide, which is between $600 million and $1.4 billion. This is a high relative value given that rivers and lakes occupy a sliver of the landscape. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Yakima River Basin, where the headwaters are seemingly soaked (snow and rain in the Cascade Mountains) but the lower basin is a desert landscape composed of a shrub-steppe ecosystem. Without the life-giving waters of the Yakima River, the thriving agricultural economy of the basin would look drastically different.

Overall, this study provides yet another tool for us to demonstrate the importance of Washington’s natural resources. The Yakima River Basin is a perfect example. From snow-capped mountains with glaciers, to desert uplands and canyons, the Yakima River Basin is truly an exceptional place that is a vital part of Washington’s economy.  Properly implementing the YBIP will help protect the opportunities for outdoor recreation, but more importantly, the YBIP can increase the ecosystem services provided by the Basin and protect a regional economy. Protecting the Yakima River should be a high priority for any Washington resident. Not just to have a place to play, but to also ensure clean air and water with a vibrant economy for years to come.

Fish. Families. Farms.
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