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The Next 10 Years: Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Update

By Michael Garrity, American Rivers

West Fork Teanaway River

Exploring the West Fork Teanaway River.

A great deal has occurred since our last update – all of it good news for the health of the Yakima Basin’s environment and economy.

On the final day of June 2013,

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Governor Jay Inslee signed a budget bill that provided $132 million to ratify and begin implementation of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. As part of the bill, the state purchased 50,000 acres of former private timberland in the legendary Teanaway River Valley, funded water conservation and habitat restoration in places like Manastash Creek, and will make fish passage and water storage improvements at Cle Elum and Kachess reservoirs “construction ready” by 2015.

The success at the state level has set the stage for local and federal government funding work. The priorities for the first ten years of the Integrated Plan (“Initial Development Phase”) will build on what the state legislature funded including:

— Fish passage at Cle Elum Dam and one other water storage dam in the basin (to be determined after additional study);

— Additional land acquisition and protection including the former private timberland in the Teanaway and future acquisitions;

— Habitat restoration, including floodplain and meadow restoration and revegetation of riparian areas;

— Raising Cle Elum Reservoir by three feet, accessing more water stored behind Kachess Dam during drought years for farms, communities, and instream flow, and building a tunnel between Keechelus and Kachess reservoirs to improve river

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flows and ensure more rapid refill of Kachess Reservoir;

— Water conservation projects to reduce water diversions from the Yakima and Naches rivers, conserving about 85,000 acre feet of water; and

— Determining which major water storage project (Bumping Reservoir enlargement or Wymer Reservoir) will be pursued in Phase 2 – the second 10-year phase — of the Yakima Integrated Plan.

The cost of the approximately 10-year-long first phase of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is estimated at $739 million to $898 million, including the $132 million already provided by the State of Washington. Funding and implementing this initial phase on time will require federal funding and legislation combined with private and local contributions, as well as additional state funds. Given the importance of the Yakima Basin to Washington’s economy, recreation and environmental health, it’s an investment that is well worth it.


Yakima Herald-Republic: Dry spell shows need for reliable water supply

By Editorial Board

January 1, 2014

Up to now, this winter has been marked by a decent cold snap, a fair bit of seasonal chill and a dearth of snow in the lowlands and — more importantly — in the highlands. Winter recreation has taken a real hit, as have the businesses that cater to it, and concern is starting to shift toward the size of the snowpack.

Cascade Mountain snows, of course, fuel the water supply that is the lifeblood of the agriculture-based economy in the Yakima Valley. According to the National Weather Service, the Yakima River Basin has about half the normal snowpack for this time of year.

Experts are split over the significance of the shortage at this point in the snow season. If precipitation comes this month and continues into spring, we should be fine. But it’s fair to say that more eyes are scanning the skies in the hope of seeing clouds laden with snow.

The Valley is no stranger to drought and to the steps taken to deal with it. In bad years, junior water-rights holders have their supply limited, and farmers have gone to the expense of drilling wells to supplement their supply. Farmers have had to make

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difficult decisions on which crops to water and which to let wither and die. The needs of farms must be balanced with those of fish, which require stream flows at certain levels in order to survive.

That’s why key stakeholders in Central Washington have worked hard in recent years to forge a compromise that increases the region’s water supply. These stakeholders include local and state governments, the Yakama Nation, federal officials, irrigators, farm groups and selected environmental groups. The compromise involves conservation, water banking and increased storage.

Continue reading the story.


Ellensburg Daily Record: Editorial: A look behind the No. 1 story of the year

By Editorial Board

December 31, 2013

As the year comes to a close newspapers across the nation list their top stories of the year and reflect on what did and did not happen in the community.

One notable characteristic of the annual top story list in Kittitas County is stories tend to linger from year to year.

There is a legitimate argument to make that water is the top story every year. The presence or absence of an adequate water supply is the primary variable in the county’s agricultural economy — from snowpack to ill-timed rain. That doesn’t change from year to year. Add in the growing threat and occurrence of wildfires and the snowpack/rainfall index takes on an even greater importance.

This year’s top story may not be “the weather,” but the

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state’s purchase of about 50,000 acres in the Teanaway is directly connected to the water supply issue in the Yakima basin. The purchase is part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. As

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big as the $99 million purchase of Teanaway property is, it is just one component of the massive $5 billion basin plan.

The plan’s aim is to boost stream flows to improve environmental and economic stability in a basin that has struggled with periodic droughts and long-standing conflicts over water rights.

Continue reading the story.


Ellensburg Daily Record: Year in review: Teanaway land purchase is top story for 2013

By Mike Johnston

December 31, 2013

Kittitas County gained attention across the region this fall when the state purchased 50,000 acres of forest land in the Teanaway.

The purchase was one of the largest in the state’s history, and part of a 30-year, $5 billion project to stabilize water supplies and improve fish habitat in the Yakima River Basin.

The 2013 state Legislature agreed in late June to pay more than $99 million to buy the scenic Teanaway lands from American Forest Land Co.’s holding firm. The milestone was lauded as an unprecedented act of across-the-aisle political support of a wide number of often-conflicting

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interest groups.

The sale is part of a long-term water strategy called the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.

It aims to secure more dependable water resources,

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enhance fish habitat and improve water conservation in Kittitas, Yakima and Benton counties.

Continue reading the story.


Capital Press: Conservation, irrigation goals of big state land buy

By Dan Wheat

October 4, 2013

CLE ELUM, Wash. — State agencies, environmentalists and farmers celebrated a $100 million state purchase of 50,272 acres of timber and grazing land north of Cle Elum on Oct.

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1 and its designation as the state’s first community forest.

The purchase saves the land from potential development and as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan will lead toward more irrigation water for farmers and ranchers in the basin, said Peter Goldmark, commissioner of Public Lands, and others at the celebration.

The event was held at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange Hall, 10 miles east of Cle Elum, in the Teanaway Valley. Goldmark said the deal officially closed that morning and is the largest single land purchase by the state in 45 years.

“The Teanaway River is a confluence of many branches. This celebration today is the confluence of the work of many people,” Goldmark said.

While the inability of Congress to work together shut down the federal government in recent days, diverse groups working on the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan in recent years have taken heat from their own constituencies in collaboration and compromise for the common good, said Phil Anderson, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Continue reading the story.

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