Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign
Yakima Basin Integrated Plan
S. 1694, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015
National Conservation and Recreation Area
Wild and Scenic Rivers
Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign
1. What is the Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign?
We’re a group of organizations who envision the Yakima Basin as a place where fish, wildlife, farms and families have cold, clean water; land is protected for everyone to enjoy now and for future generations; and our forests support sustainable jobs. We see the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan as the best solution to making our vision a reality. In addition to supporting the entire integrated plan, especially fishery restoration and improved water management, our groups are leading the development of a land and river protection proposal, using the Integrated Plan’s recommendations for land and water protections as a starting point.
2. How are you developing the “land and river protection” part of the proposal?
While our groups are committed to leading the development of the proposal, it’s going to take everyone who cares about the national forest lands and waters in the basin and protection of ecologically important private lands to create it – and we welcome that help. We’re meeting with people—from hikers to hunters, snowmobilers to anglers and horseback riders to dirt bikers—to understand what people do on the land, where they go and how they want to see it protected. We’d love to have your help. Please fill out our contact form or give one of us a call and get involved.
Yakima Basin Integrated Plan
1. What is the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan?
Called the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan or YBIP for short, the plan is a balanced package of actions that will protect lands and waters; improve water quality and quantity; restore salmon and steelhead populations; improve the health and functionality of natural systems like floodplains and built systems like irrigation infrastructure; drive a healthy economy; and return jobs to the woods.
2. What are the goals of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan?
The goals of the YBIP are:
- Protect land and rivers and restore their health.
- Enhance fish habitat.
- Provide a more reliable water supply for farmers.
- Develop a comprehensive approach for efficient use of water.
- Improve the ability for water managers, as well as fish and wildlife, to adapt to climate change.
- Contribute to the vitality of the regional economy in an ecologically sustainable way.
3. Why do we need the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan?
Current water and land management in the Yakima Basin does not provide what is needed to sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations or the needs of agricultural, municipal and domestic water uses today. Water will only become scarcer in the Yakima Basin as climate change leads to a reduced and early-melting snowpack, and longer, hotter and drier summers.
Some of the benefits are:
- An adequate water supply for irrigated farms
- Restoration of salmon populations from current numbers of about 30,000 to about 300,000, including what could be the largest sockeye run in the lower 48
- Creation of fish passage on six reservoirs, including Clear Lake, Cle Elum, Bumping, Tieton (Rimrock), Keechelus, Kachess allowing fish to access high elevation, cold water habitat
- Protection of over 140,000 acres of existing public lands that are critical headwaters for the Yakima River and provide world-class recreation opportunities such as hiking, horseback riding and camping.
- Protective designation of about 200 miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic to ensure their free-flowing nature for fish, wildlife and recreation.
- Protection of over 70,000 acres of private lands that include hugely important corridor and habitat parcels in central Washington – the crown jewel is the Teanaway, a 46,000-acre parcel up for sale or development, just 90 miles from Seattle. The plan would also protect 15,000 acres of shrub-steppe, a vital and diminishing habitat type in central Washington.
- Enhancement and restoration of critical wildlife and fish habitat, including restoring access to key tributaries.
The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan grew out of decades of fighting over water in the basin. After efforts to push the costly and environmentally risky Black Rock dam and reservoir project failed, a diverse group of the Yakama Nation, agencies, irrigators, and conservationists got together and spent 18 months putting together a comprehensive package that would meet the needs of farmers, fish, and families in the basin. That process led to a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact statement. Public comments were incorporated into the now Final Programmatic Environmental Impact statement, which outlines the framework for the seven Yakima Basin Integrated Plan components.
A broad coalition supports YBIP, including the Yakama Nation, farmers, irrigation districts, local governments, businesses, conservation organizations, recreation groups, and state and federal agencies.
Yes. The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan includes water conservation measures that will save up to 170,000 acre feet of water.
8. Are the irrigators going to have to pay for any of the benefits of this plan?
Yes. Their share of the costs has yet to be determined and will depend on an analysis of the costs and benefits of the entire plan. A preliminary economic analysis indicates that some of the economic benefits of the plan are reaped by the irrigators in water reliability, with the rest tied to salmon and steelhead restoration. The Bureau of Reclamation is currently analyzing the costs and benefits and will propose a preliminary allocation of responsibility later in 2012.
The Integrated Plan is truly an integrated endeavor. A balance has been struck so that all supporters embrace the plan in its entirety. If a group attempts to negate one piece, others will follow and soon the entire plan will crumble. Therefore, all parties understand that everyone’s interests must be respected, and the project has to proceed in a fair and equitable way. As work moves forward, all interests must continue to sit at the table to speak for their interests and ensure that the entire plan moves forward together.
10. Aren’t parts of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan already required?
Yes and no. Some elements of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan could proceed without YBIP, though likely more slowly and with less funding. Examples include pieces of the river habitat work, water efficiency work and fish passage at Cle Elum Dam. The full suite of fish and river restoration projects requires significant additional funding and some new authorizations as well. The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan provides the only pathway to both authorize and fund the entirety of what is needed to secure the future of the Yakima Basin for fish, farms and families.
The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is finalized. Now the Work Group must determine a more specific plan for sequencing and funding the implementation of the plan’s components. After that task is completed, the Work Group will work with Congress to pass and fund the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Individual projects under YBIP (for example, constructing fish passage at Kachess Reservoir or expanding Bumping reservoir) must undergo a detailed project level Environmental Impact Statement or other public process as well as evaluation under other laws such as the Endangered Species Act At that point, additional actions may be required to mitigate for project-specific environmental impacts.
12. Where can I find out more about the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan?
- Sign up for our updates.
- Visit Washington State Department of Ecology’s Yakima page
- Visit Bureau of Reclamation’s Yakima page
S. 1694, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015
There have been two previous “Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Act”s, one in 1984 and another in 1994. Phase I, in 1984, authorized Basin-wide improvements to fish passage facilities and installation of new fish ladders and fish screens. Additional legislation in 1994 called for water conservation activities, including studying the long-term needs of fish and farms and developing water markets. S. 1694 builds on the work done in these previous YRBWEP Phases and authorizes projects for the first of three ten-year chunks – in short, it is the Initial Development Phase of YRBWEP III
S. 1694 authorizes the first ten-year phase of YRBWEP III. The projects in this phase were selected because they have the ability to immediately address the challenges of climate change, ecosystem degradation and habitat restoration. They are also among the least expensive of the projects proposed for the entire thirty-year Integrated Plan. They include:
- Fish passage at Cle Elum Reservoir
- On August 27, 2015, the Yakama Nation, Bureau of Reclamation, WA Department of Ecology, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, the YBCC groups and others broke ground on fish passage at Cle Elum Reservoir. This unique downstream passage system is the culmination of decades of work, especially by the Yakama Nation Fisheries sockeye reintroduction program. If funding is provided reliably, it may take up to seven years to complete.
- Fish passage at another Yakima Basin reservoir
- Although the question of which reservoir has not been settled, this project will likely occur at Tieton Dam, where an appraisal assessment was completed as of Fall, 2015. Conceptual design reports have been drafted or are in study at Keechelus, Kachess and Clear Lake.
- A 3-foot pool raise at Cle Elum Reservoir
- This project, which is already underway, will allow the storage of 14,600 acre-feet of water within the Cle Elum Reservoir (about 4.8 billion gallons). All of this storage is reserved for in-stream uses; for example, a pulse of cold water from the deep reservoir can help relieve salmon and trout during hot summers.
- Wild and Scenic River designation for the Upper Cle Elum, Cooper and Waptus rivers
- Now that the salmon are making their triumphant return to the upper watershed, we must ensure they have pristine habitat to move into! 1694 supports the designation of tributaries above the Cle Elum Reservoir, though designation will be achieved through separate legislation.
- Acquisition of 70.000 acres of private land within the Yakima Basin for conservation purposes
- The YBIP is already ahead of the curve on this goal, thanks to the historic purchase of the Teanaway Community Forest in 2013. Protecting this forested watershed ensures clean, cold water for downstream needs, but there’s more work to do, including…
- Developing a management plan for the Teanaway Community Forest
- As Washington’s first Community Forest, the Teanaway must be managed to meet many uses and values. The YBIP supports the managing agencies, which you can learn more about here.
- Allocating $75 million for restoration of floodplains, meadows and tributaries
- Properly functioning floodplains, tributaries and meadows help to store water during wet seasons, water which seeps slowly into creeks and rivers during drier months. These projects will help to ensure in-stream temperatures in the face of global warming, and assist with groundwater recharge.
- The Kachess Emergency Drought Relief Pumping Plant (KDRPP)
- Under the Integrated Plan, irrigators have stepped up to pay for water storage projects like KDRPP. During drought years, the emergency pumping plant can be used to access up to 200,000 acre-feet of inactive storage at Kachess reservoir. A draw down of that level would leave more than 386,000 acre-feet remaining in the lake, and would ensure junior water-rights holders downstream receive 70% of their water right, the amount needed to avoid massive economic losses.
- The Kachess-to-Keechelus pipeline (K-to-K)
- Kachess is a very large reservoir with a very small watershed – it can take up to two years to recover after a drought draw-down. Keechelus is a small reservoir with a large watershed – during the wetter months, water must be dumped out of the reservoir to keep it from overflowing, which strips the river environment of gravel beds and sediment. A pipeline between the two will help to balance storage and improve flows for fish and shoreline ecosystems.
- 85,000 acre-feet of water conserved through irrigation efficiencies
- By lining canals, installing plastic piping and upgrading outdated irrigation systems, water users will save up to 85,000 acre-feet (more than 27.5 billion gallons) annually. The end goal of the plan is 170,000 acre-feet of annual water savings.
- Expanding Yakima Basin water markets
- In order to respond to droughts more efficiently, the Yakima Basin needs more flexible water markets. Under Governor Inslee’s 2015 drought declaration the Department of Ecology was able to facilitate sales and leasing of water rights between rights-holders at a faster rate.
- New storage at Bumping and Wymer
- S. 1694 does endorse these projects, but propositions to expand Bumping Reservoir and/or create a new storage facility at Wymer (Lmuma Creek) have yet to undergo ESA/NEPA/SEPA scrutiny. These projects would be subject to all federal permitting processes and must withstand the attentions of the Plan’s environmental supporters and opponents. Though they have not yet been authorized, it is highly likely that they would be funded by water users, much as the Kachess and Keechelus projects are, and the cost-benefit ratio would been to be something irrigators and farmers are willing to shoulder. With all that in mind, we do not believe the necessary, relatively inexpensive projects authorized by S. 1694 should be held back by uncertain factors like Bumping and Wymer.
- A National Conservation and Recreation Area
- One such proposal was introduced in order to better manage existing motor vehicle use in parts of the Wenatchee National Forest. However, this has been shelved until the Forest Service’s Wenatchee National Forest Planning process is complete, and is not part of S. 1694.
- The Initial Development Phase is estimated to cost approximately $900 million. The State of Washington has committed to funding 50% of the cost of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, with the understanding that the other 50% will come from non-state sources. 1694 does not authorize any funds for the Initial Development Phase projects; instead, it expresses a commitment from the federal government to see the projects through. A large portion of that $900 million represents irrigator dollars funding the storage projects at Kachess and Keechelus, at no taxpayer cost.
- The Initial Development Phase provides:
- Important drought relief to Yakima Basin farmers
- Improved conditions for salmon, steelhead and bull trout
- Fish passage to historic spawning and rearing habitat for historically extirpated salmonid species, and the restoration of this culturally and spiritually significant resource to the Yakama Nation, as guaranteed by their tribal treaty rights.
- Healthier riparian areas for wildlife
- Decreased flood risks
- Better instream flows for angling, boating, rafting and kayaking
- Better maintenance of recreation sites, trails and other facilities
National Conservation and Recreation Area
1. Why is a National Conservation and Recreation Area designation under discussion in a plan about water and fish?
A National Conservation and Recreation Area is a tool to protect the various values of federal lands that have outstanding combinations of conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. The roadless lands on National Forests in the Yakima Basin provide critical watershed values and also represent a mecca for a wide variety of recreation users. As such, the management of these lands impacts the local economy through both the cold, clean water that is produced as well as the recreation amenities. National Conservation and Recreation Area designation offers the flexibility to protect both of these values into the future.
No. The National Conservation and Recreation Area is proposed to be consistent with the goals of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. As envisioned, the National Conservation and Recreation Area would enhance watershed and fish habitat, preserve or improve existing recreational opportunities, avoid negative effects on existing or reasonably foreseeable economic uses of the affected public lands and directly complement other actions in the Integrated Plan, such as fish passage, streamflow improvements, and downstream habitat restoration.
1. Will the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan impact recreation access and infrastructure at Bumping Lake?
The impacts of the Bumping Lake reservoir expansion will be detailed and mitigated through the project level Environmental Impact Statement and subject to compliance with the Endangered Species Act. That said, the proposal to raise the level of the lake by 60 feet will inundate existing campgrounds, boat launches, trails, cabins, other infrastructure and about 980 acres of the old-growth forest that surrounds parts of the lake. The Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign is committed to addressing these impacts to the extent possible and advocating for continued access to important recreation amenities.
Wild and Scenic Rivers
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the nation’s best tool to protect our remaining wild, free-flowing rivers from impoundment, damming, or detrimental development. It was introduced in 1968 as a response to decades of dam-building and river alterations, in order to ensure the preservation of rivers and their uses for the benefit of future generations. An eligible river must be free of dams or diversions and contain at least one Outstandingly Remarkable Value (ORV). An ORV may be scenic, recreational, historical, cultural, botanical, archaeological, scientific or related to fish or wildlife, and should establish the river as unique on a regional or national scale.
When a river is added to the National Wild and Scenic System, the ORVs for which it was designated are protected and enhanced in perpetuity. Each river is administered with the goal of preserving those values for future generations to enjoy. The designation therefore:
- Protects the ORVs
- Protects the free-flowing character of the river by preventing federally licensed dams and other harmful development projects
- Ensures water quality
- Establishes a ¼ mile corridor from the high water mark on either side of the river
- Requires the development of a Cooperative River Management Plan (CRMP) with the input of the public and
- Promotes river-friendly restoration techniques
- Helps to leverage funding for recreation access, facilities management and habitat restoration projects
Your Senator and/or Representative must introduce a Wild and Scenic bill into Congress. Your legislators may be motivated to introduce the bill at the request of local residents, through the work of conservation groups, or the recommendation of other lands management agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Proposed Action Plan for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National recommended designation for the Cooper River, and the summary of public comments on their 2013 Forest Plan revisions showed strong support for designating the Cle Elum, Cooper and Waptus rivers. Once submitted, the river’s eligibility is assessed through a study process. Congress then must pass the legislation, and then the President signs it into law.
Once a river is designated, it is classified as “Wild”, “Scenic” or “Recreational”. However, these labels have more to do with the level of development than the specific use of the river:
- Wild– Free of impoundments, generally inaccessible except by trail, watershed or shorelines remain essentially primitive, and unpolluted waters. The vestiges of primitive America.
- Scenic – Free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
- Recreational – Readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.
The Cle Elum River System (comprised of the Upper Cle Elum, Cooper and Waptus rivers) is a vital component of the Yakima River headwater tributaries, providing cool, clean water for fish and wildlife as well as drinking and irrigation water for communities in Kittitas and Yakima counties. The Cle Elum System offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including fishing, birdwatching, kayaking, camping and hiking through rugged rock walls, polished outcrops, cascading waterfalls, serene mountain lakes, peaceful river meadows and brilliant green marshlands.
The Cle Elum, Waptus and Cooper rivers are also a vital component of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan’s sockeye reintroduction projects. On August 17, 2015, members and supporters of the Plan broke ground on a one-of-a-kind fish passage system at the Cle Elum Reservoir. Through this passage, sockeye salmon, which were historically extirpated from the basin, will have access to the pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the reservoir: the Upper Cle Elum System. Wild and Scenic designation will safeguard the $87 million investment in fish passage and salmonid reintroduction, while also protecting crucial habitat for the threatened bull trout and steelhead that rely on cold, clean headwaters.
No, that is not likely. Recreational uses (such as fishing, boating and hiking) are among the foremost ORVs the Wild and Scenic designation seeks to protect. Public access and current uses of the river will likely continue as before, unless they clearly endanger the ORVs for which the river was designated. In that case, the uses will be addressed through the management planning process.
If a river is designated for its recreational values, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is required to protect and enhance that purpose. This can mean availability of federal funding to improve recreation access and facilities.
Absolutely! There is ample opportunity for public input at many stages of the designation process. Public comments are considered when the agency determines the eligibility and potential suitability of a river and when a study report is released. Local citizens can help identify a river’s outstanding remarkable values, provide information about land uses and trends, and prioritize restoration projects. Once a Wild and Scenic River is designated, local stakeholders play a key role in the development of the comprehensive management plan.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act does not give the federal government control over privately owned land. Land use controls on private lands are a matter of state and local zoning.
Furthermore, the federal government cannot seize privately owned land through condemnation in the case of the Upper Cle Elum, Cooper and Waptus rivers. If more than half of the land within the ¼ boundary of the river is already in public ownership, condemnation cannot be used to acquire the land. This is the case in our system!
No, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act specifically states that hunting and fishing shall be permitted on lands and waters administered under the Act. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to regulate hunting and fishing opportunities.
Existing, valid water rights are not affected by designation. Current U.S. Forest Service regulations and policy already limit timber extraction along river corridors. Agency policy and legal precedent are clear that projects to enhance riparian habitat (e.g., thinning) are permissible in Wild and Scenic River corridors on river segments classified as scenic or recreational.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act does not take over management of state or private lands, including mining and timber interests. Management of mining and timber activities on those lands would continue to be governed by state laws and regulations. However, a number of provisions within the Act encourage the federal agency to work with the state to develop complementary guidelines for river protection.
If a river has been classified as “Wild”, no new mining claims or leases can be made. However, if it has been classified as “Scenic” or “Recreational”, new claims and leases are allowed so long as they do not threaten the ORVs. A Wild and Scenic designation ensures Forest Service regulations and policy on timber extraction along river corridors – projects to enhance riparian habitat (i.e., thinning) are permissible in “Scenic” and “Recreational” corridors.