Currently, the cool, high elevation waterways in the Yakima Basin are all blocked by dams. These dams allow for important irrigation water storage, yet they also block salmon and steelhead from critical cold water spawning habitat in the Cascade Mountains.
At present time the basin provides an inadequate water supply for water rights holders, particularly in low snowpack years, therefore a more efficient irrigation plan is necessary. With salmon and steelhead populations in need of recovery, the water management plan in the Yakima Basin must provide restoration of their spawning habitat and access to it along with greater certainty for irrigated agriculture.
We support the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, including:
- Development of fish passage, so salmon and steelhead can migrate upstream to extensive cold water habitat and isolated bull trout populations trapped above dams will no longer be isolated. Fish passage would be built on six reservoirs in the Yakima Basin, including: Clear Lake, Cle Elum, Bumping, Rimrock (Tieton), Keechelus and Kachess. Culverts and irrigation systems would also be modified throughout the Yakima Basin to restore access to dozens of miles of spawning habitat.
- Restoration of key floodplains from Ellensburg to Union Gap to improve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality and to reduce flood damage to local communities.
- Numerous other river restoration actions such as fencing creeks, replanting river and streamsides, and restoring meadows, wetlands and side channels.