Monthly Report Archive

YBSA Monthly Report October 2020

YBSA Monthly Report

October 2020

Storage: The 5 reservoirs are at average as of November 1st. Lake Cle Elum water is being kept low, so the multimillion dollar fish passage project is being erected.

Salmon: Sockeye are spawning in greater numbers in the Cle Elum River above Lake Cle Elum. The Coho hatchery is still under construction, and the fish hatchery at South Cle Elum is producing juveniles. Very few fish have come back up the Yakima River returning from the ocean due to water quality, quantity, and temperature in the lower Yakima River.

Attempt to Increase Water in the Yakima Basin: The following is a short history of attempts to increase the water supply in the Yakima Basin to guarantee water for agriculture and provide enough instream flow in the Yakima River for fish.

In the 1990’s Benton, Kittitas, and Yakima Counties cooperated to attempt to address the need for additional water for instream flow and out of stream use in the Yakima Basin. A study was completed which described that the transfer of Columba River water to the Yakima Basin was viable and would solve the water needs in the basin for centuries.

A grass root organization consisting of all stakeholders of the Yakima Basin, the Watershed Council, was formed. The goal was to increase the water available in the basin. Meetings were held throughout the three counties. Most of the cities, the Yakama Nation, and interested organizations supported the program. A lobbying effort to fund a study on using Columbia River water was undertaken.

A study was funded by United States Congress in the amount of $18 million for the U.S. Department of Interior Pacific Northwest Region to examine the possible use of Columbia River water for the Yakima Basin. The Final planning report Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed. The Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study (over five hundred pages) was distributed for comments by February 3, 2009. A non-decision opinion was made on use of Columbia River water in the basin. The possibility of another review to start as soon as all other possible projects for additional water within the basin were examined. The additional water is needed to solve the problem of not enough water for instream flow for fish and out of stream use for agriculture that is currently occurring in the Basin.

The Yakima Basin Storage Alliance (YBSA) was formed and continues to pursue possible ways to transfer water from the Columbia River to the Yakima Basin. The YBSA’s mission is to store water for agriculture. The storage is managed by Reclamation (BOR). Much of the time, the Yakima River system is adequate except for salmon, but increasingly, junior water rights holders with high value crops are paying for water they do not get. This is the result of climate change, but it does expand our interest to the possibility of pumped storage facilities.

In 2010 the Department of Ecology (DOE) and the BOR appointed a committee of stakeholders to consider improvements needed in the Yakima Basin. The Integrated Water Resource Management Plan was developed. It included improvements of mitigation, habitat, fish passage, storage, and the return of fish in the Yakima River, including the possible use of Columbia River water. A lot of projects have been undertaken and money spent but no additional water has become. Ten years ago, YBSA was told to put our long-standing quest for excess Columbia River water on hold and other options would be pursued with a goal of going back to the Columbia if all else failed. The ten years are now history, and while things have been done that make some folks feel good, the original problem of water supply only gets worse. The Integrated Plan Workgroup should start the process of reviewing use of Columba River water and the value of that water to the Yakima Basin. The impact of climate change on our water supply should be considered.

A factor not included in earlier water supply thinking is the fact that Pumped Storage for electrical power generation is seriously being considered on the Columbia as coordinated with intermittent wind and solar energy sources. This does not provide water to the Yakima Basin, but it could be a usable supply since pumped storage reservoirs would be located on the uphill side of the Columbia, and that would be in the Yakima Basin. The titles to two articles listed at the bottom of this page were written on pumped storage by the folks at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland) and they were just awarded a $75 million grant to look at pumping water uphill to energy storages to go with renewable energy sources. See the links below to articles for further information.

A lot of things now come together; ten years have gone by with no new water for Yakima Basin as was promised. We have the potential of reaching to the Columbia for water in years, and at times, when we need it and no one else does.

August 11, 2020 – Open or Closed: Pumped Storage Hydropower is on the Rise

October 31, 2019 – The World’s Energy Storage Powerhouse Hydropower Offers a Low Cost, High-Energy Option