Yakima Basin Water Plan

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by cabezon, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Nov 14, 2004
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    Olympia, WA
    Hi folks,
    The Seattle TImes has a story (see http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021921558_yakimawaterxml.html) in today's paper in which they describe the amalgamation of interests (strange bedfellows, for sure) that are pushing for multiple changes and enhanced elements to water storage and fish passage on the Yakima River. The project includes improved fish passage, a new reservoir, and increases of some current reservoirs. But the price tag is astronomical, $4.2 billion dollars at a minimum. This project has come up in previous threads on WFF. In one of them, Salmo, I believe, pointed out that this project must produce more benefits than the overall costs. The Seattle Times article identifies 75% of the proposed benefits come from how people in the state value enhanced fish populations (and these estimates of value are VERY questionable). Yet the fisheries enhancements are just a minor cost of overall project. And there is nothing in the project, yet, to have the farm interests, the biggest direct beneficiaries of this project, to pay ANYTHING. Discuss......

  2. Matt B

    Matt B ...

    Mar 3, 2005
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    A fascinating, maybe even groundbreaking proposal. An eye-popping price tag as well. I'm glad there's a fair amount in there for the fish.
  3. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

    Jan 1, 2002
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    Butte, Mt
    The state will probably raise taxes to help pay for it.
  4. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Jun 28, 2005
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    Seattle, WA
    I must say that I've had mixed feelings about this as I've seen the plan develop in bits and pieces over the years. The issue of reduced snowpack as our climate warms here in the PNW will mean that we will have to figure out how to capture more water as it falls in the future. As those things go, I think this plan will have a modest impact relative to other possibilities that will arise in coming decades. Based on what I know know, and what I suspect will be future needs, I think I would tentatively support this plan.

    That said, it isn't an all or nothing plan. As the article in the Times points out, some parts of it are already in motion, including purchasing private land in the Teanaway drainage, which should help to keep minimum stream flows in the Teanaway sufficient for anadromous fish. This would be a good thing for fish and fishing.

    Another potentially favorable impact to trout fishing in the Yakima, for those of us who like to wade the Yak in the spring (April-May), is the plan to divert water from the Kacheelus to Kachess reservoirs. In several recent years, the snow accumulation comes too late in the winter/spring and is too much for Kacheelus to hold, so they let it flush down the river, thus creating flow levels that are too high to wade. The plan to use Kachess to buffer that runoff, might provide more consistent flow levels in the pre-irrigation period, which is one of my favorite times of year to fish the Yak.

    The new holding capacity will come by raising the height of the dam on Bumping Reservoir, which will impact some of the forest around that reservoir, and through creation of a new reservoir in the Lmuma Creek drainage, which is now a dry sagebrush-steppe valley, which is likely to have some impact on bird, deer, bighorn habitat (I don't really know how much), but relatively little on the fishing. Both of these are environmental impacts, for sure, but don't require the building of any new in-flow dams. They are both likely to change some of the flow dynamics in the Naches and Yakima, respectively, but should reduce flows only during the high flow periods. The Bumping reservoir's increased capacity may impact the nature (timing/volume) of flows for irrigation down the Naches.

    The Yakima valley is going to continue to be incredibly important agricultural land for our region, and water security for farmers/orchardists there is a big concern that all of us should share.

    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  5. riseform

    riseform Active Member

    Feb 5, 2007
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    Tacoma, WA
    I see an opportunity for brown trout to get from Cooper Lake into the Yakima. I could break out my MT streamers. ;)
    Itchy Dog likes this.
  6. Rich Schager

    Rich Schager You should have been here yesterday...

    Feb 17, 2005
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    Harstine Island
    Already Browns in the Yakima...
  7. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Aug 30, 2007
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    Walla Walla, WA
    I've watched water management very closely in WA the last few years. I have to say much of what I am seeing is encouraging. The simple truth is that water is already over allocated almost everywhere. Part of the struggle is trying to satisfy water rights that have dibs on water that is not really there. Many junior water users have, more or less, paper only rights. But those rights have economic value, and in the past when rivers could be pumped dry, could be used from time to time.

    Like many others I think the $4.2B price tag puts the project firmly out of reach of positive ROI. I don't think a project on that scale will see funding, at least not entirely.

    As an aside, some day I hope they restore the regular flow regime to the Yak. Studies on the Spring Chinook (maybe other species) seemed to indicate the unnatural flow management may be as detrimental as other factors impacting survival. Good news is I really think everyone is trying to make something happen (something positive) and I think that is great.

    Page 11 mentions the flow issues. http://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/yrbwep/reports/tm/3instrm-flow-needs.pdf

    Cities are also large beneficiaries of surface rights in many cases. I think Roslyn gets regulated many summers (told to reduce or stop pumping) as their rights are junior to other downstream users. But farms are by far the largest users by volume (though some veg processors are pretty big users as well).

    I think forming a taxing district to fund new off channel water projects is a good idea. If Junior right holders want t kick in and pay for more storage (kind of like a private water system), then party on. If the regulated users don't want to pay...then they can go without. Like I said because of over allocation, their rights are basically "first dibs" on new water.
  8. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2004
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    Your City ,State
    The proposal needs a qualified economic analysis. Attributing 80% of the benefits to projected fisheries restoration is delusional, unscientific, and unqualified as analysis. It would be a lot easier to support the plan if it clearly described how the direct beneficiaries of water use - irrigators - were going to pay for the water they use. It's always easy to obtain agreement on a plan to spend what appears to be someone else's money. And that's what this plan does. Anyone who doesn't see that as a fatal flaw is probably a direct beneficiary of the spending.

    David Dalan likes this.