Introducing the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan
For decades, water storage for domestic and and agricultural uses has been a challenge in the Yakima Valley. A group of stakeholders have come together from state and local governments, agriculture interests, tribes and non-profits to develop new strategies for increasing water supply in and protecting the Yakima Basin Watershed. Last month, WTA's board of directors took action to support these strategies, known as the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan.
For decades, water storage for domestic and and agricultural uses has been a challenge in the Yakima Valley. Yakima County is the highest agriculture producing county in the state - the 16th highest in the country - and a long line of water-rights holders contend for access to limited water resources from the Yakima and its tributaries. Cyclical drought and shrinking winter snowpack threaten to further increase uncertainty for water users in the Yakima Basin.
Agricultural and domestic water users are not the only ones dependent on stream flows and storage in the valley. Fish stocks have declined precipitously over the years, and the Yakama Tribe is suffering as a result. A group of stakeholders have come together from state and local governments, agriculture interests, tribes and non-profits to develop new strategies for protecting and increasing water supply in the Yakima Basin Watershed. Last month, WTA's board of directors took action to support these strategies, known as the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan.
This is an extraordinarily complicated plan, and WTA staff and board members engaged in extensive research and stakeholder outreach to develop a position on this proposal. We entered into this process due to the fact that the plan includes a trail component in the form of two potential National Recreation Areas (NRA), one in the Teanaway and the other in the Taneum-Manastash. There is a high level of motorized use in these areas, and we were concerned that NRA designation could trump ORV Travel Management Planning, a process that the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is conducting to develop an environmentally and socially appropriate network of ORV opportunities. But as we have continued to work with plan developers, we've found reason to be optimistic that the NRA proposals can be constructed in a way that benefits hikers in the long term.
One of the components of the proposal is increasing water storage by raising the level of Bumping Lake by 65 feet, which would inundate the four-mile Bumping Lake Trail. WTA will work to ensure that new trail miles of like quality and mileage are developed in the area as part of the proposal.
The plan also includes the following provisions that will have long-term benefits for the state:
- Of the planning area's five dams, none currently allow for fish passage. The Plan would add fish passage to all of these dams for a projected tenfold increase in fish stocks.
- There are 46,000 acres of land in the Teanaway area that are currently owned by by American Forest Land Company and Plum Creek Timber. These areas are under heavy development pressure, and the Plan calls for acquisition of these acres to provide watershed preservation, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.
- Along with acquired lands, the Plan calls for the addition of 21,000 acres of roadless land to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
- The Plan would add 13 new Wild and Scenic Rivers to Washington State's slender Wild and Scenic inventory.
- Finally, by benefiting tribal, municipal and agricultural water users, the Plan will make local communities stronger and increase the prospects for conserving public lands in the long term.