Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign
Yakima Basin Integrated Plan
National Recreation Area
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 perhaps 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
National Recreation Area
1. Why is a National Recreation Area designation under discussion in a plan about water and fish?
A National Recreation Area is a tool to protect the various values of federal lands that have outstanding combinations of outdoor recreation opportunities, aesthetic attractions and proximity to potential users. 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 Recreation Area designation offers the flexibility to protect both of these values into the future.
No. The National Recreation Area is proposed to be consistent with the goals of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. As envisioned, the National 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.