Monthly Report Archive

YBSA Monthly Report, November 2018

YBSA Monthly Report

November 2018

Bob Tuck: Saturday Soapbox: Nov. 9, 2018 Yakima Herald Republic

Water planning in the Yakima Basin, in one form or another, has been almost continuous since Chief Kamiakin started watering his garden next to Ahtanum Creek in 1852. With the creation of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1902, design and construction of irrigation reservoirs became a reality, and in 30 years five major reservoirs were completed, with a combined storage capacity of just over 1 million acre/feet of water.

Today, eighty-five years after the reservoir system was completed, it is painfully evident that the current water supply and infrastructure are entirely inadequate to meet the challenges of maintaining several billion dollars of annual agricultural production and restoring large runs of salmon and steelhead, particularly in light of a changing climate that is producing less snow, lower stream-flows and higher air and water temperatures.

The severity of the challenge is illustrated by the drought of 2015, which cost the Yakima Basin several hundred million dollars in reduced or damaged agricultural production. In addition, due to lethal water temperatures in the Yakima and Columbia Rivers, most of the migrating adult sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia Basin were killed.

Unfortunately, the current water planning effort (Yakima Basin Integrated Plan), initiated in 2009, fails to take into account either the challenges of providing water for agriculture and salmon in the face of a changing climate, or the opportunities afforded by our geographic proximity to the Columbia River, and our ability to move electrical power in and out of the basin. Most critically, the current planning effort does not recognize the pressing regional need for electrical power load balancing.

Instead of looking forward to the next 100 years, the current water planning effort, led by the Bureau of Reclamation and Washington Department of Ecology, is reminiscent of water planning in the 1950s. The only water supply being considered is that produced within the Yakima Basin. This supply will never meet the needs of both agriculture and salmon in the basin.

Vision and leadership are essential components of water planning in the Yakima Basin. The men who conceived the water storage reservoirs clearly understood they were creating a water supply system for the next 100 years. And they provided the leadership to make it happen.

Today, the Yakima Basin faces unprecedented challenges with respect to future water supplies for agriculture and salmon. But there are also unprecedented opportunities.

What is needed is the vision and leadership to provide water for the Yakima Basin in 2100, only one human lifetime away. Nothing less will meet the challenges of tomorrow and the needs of agriculture and salmon in this basin.

Water planning in the Yakima Basin stands at a crossroads. We can plan by looking in the rear-view mirror. Or we can, like those visionaries of the second half of the nineteenth century, plan for the next 100 years. But one thing is clear when it comes to water planning in the Yakima Basin: No Vision, No Leadership, No Water.

Bob Tuck lives in Selah

Water: Snowpack and storage in the Yakima River basin is crucial for next summer and fall. The reservoirs are at 31% compacity with Lake Kachess content less than average. The weather predicted for this year show a small snowpack which provides 2/3 of the water necessary for instream flow for fish and out of stream water needed for agriculture. The weather pattern shows the most moisture will occur in northern Washington and Canada which will provide greater flows in the Columbia River. The solution may be using Columbia River water for irrigation with an equal amount left in the basin for instream flow.

Lower Yakima River: The volume of water in the lower Yakima River is low with areas of green moss still in the river. Additional river flow would help, but with a possibility of a smaller snowpack, additional water for instream flow is unlikely.

Bull Trout: The current program of nighttime rescue of Bull Trout in upper Kittitas County rivers to relocate the fish from the lower water areas to the upper reach to try to save this unique species of Bull Trout.

Lake Kachess Pumping Plant: The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be completed in December 2018. Once the EIS is available, the task will be who will pay for construction and operation costs.

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