Monthly Report Archive


YBSA Monthly Report, February 2018

YBSA Monthly Report

February, 2018


Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project: In 1994, Congress passed the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Act to focus on agricultural conservation and habitat enhancement.

In 2003 the Bureau of Reclamation began a study of the Black Rock Dam and Reservoir Yakima Basin water storage facility (pump storage facility) to develop and evaluate alternatives that could create additional water storage for the Yakima River basin and assess their potential to improve anadromous fish habitat, enhance the reliability of irrigation water supplies during dry years, and provide water to meet future municipal water demands. The Bureau of Reclamation selected the No Action alternative as the preferred alternative because the evaluation revealed that each alternative: “Required significant investment of federal funds ($1 billion to $7.7 billion) plus millions of dollars in annual operating costs and did not provide positive benefit-cost ratios required to be considered economically justified. The Black Rock alternative consistently met the irrigation water goal. The Bureau of Reclamation concluded in their study of Black Rock Reservoir that the project would not move forward.

Since the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study was completed in 2009 many changes have occurred. A review of the studies used in determining the cost-benefit of the Black Rock study using the values included in the Integrated Plan would change the cost-benefit ratio.

The Integrated Plan covers 3 phases with the third, final and largest phase included in the plan estimated to cost $4 billion over 30 years. Officials say the lowest percentage of water needed to avoid severe economic loss to farmers would be 70% during a drought year. The full 30-year integrated plan would total more than 55.4 billion gallons of new storage not including the use of Columbia River water. The 55.4 billion gallons would be added to the 53.8 billion gallons from phase 2 bringing the total to more than 109 billion gallons (334,508 acre/feet).

Water Update: The Yakima Basin storage is at 135% of average. Precipitation for the water year is 115% of average. Snow water equivalent for the upper basin is at 98% of average and the lower basin is at 101% of average.

Lower Yakima River Task Force: The task force met and developed plans for improving fish passage in the lower Yakima River. A study was made by the Yakama Nation emphasizing the need to provide passage for fish.


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YBSA Monthly Report January, 2018

YBSA Monthly Report

January, 2018

Yakima Basin Water Supply: The 5 reservoirs are at 63% of capacity. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL reports the snow water equivalent Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) reports the water content in the upper basin snow is at 96% and the lower valley snow at 99%.

Lake Cle Elum Fish Passage: The Lake Cle Elum fish passage project is moving forward with the digging of the $25 million hole in the lake bed to place the Helix (picture below from Yakima Herald Republic)

Lake Kachess Drawdown: Once again the Supplemental Draft EIS for the Lake Kachess has not been published. The EIS process began 3 years ago and has not been completed. What needs to be done to complete this EIS? The irrigation community in the Yakima Basin needs to determine if the project is feasible.

Salmon Recovery Funding: More than $96,600 has been awarded to Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group for salmon restoration efforts to improve habitat for steelhead, bull trout, and chinook salmon and to restore floodplain connectivity and instream habitat in the Yakima Basin.

Mid-Columbia Fisheries received an additional $219,101 for the Yakima Basin Stewardship Project, which allows the group to continue maintenance on prior projects on Cowiche and Oak creeks, and the Yakima River.

The North Yakima Conservation District has been awarded $228,000 to improve habitat and fish screens in Ahtanum Creek. The district plans to place tree root wads, logs and rocks in the creek, providing fish resting and hiding places.

Water & the Integrated Plan: The Integrated Plan objective for providing more than 500,000 acre/feet of additional water for the Yakima Basin began in 2008. Now 10 years later, very little additional water has been identified. The Columbia River can provide the water to ensure agriculture and fish in the Yakima Basin.

Pump Storage: The Columbia River Pump Storage Project which is listed in the Integrated Plan Storage Components needs to be reviewed and updated. The Pump Storage project (Black Rock) contains the needed water for the Yakima Basin. The in-basin storage has been evaluated for 8 years with no appreciable increase in water storage.


Please contact YBSA with information to support the need for a Pump Storage project to provide water for the Yakima Basin. Write to YBSA at P.O. Box 30, Prosser, WA 99350. Also, you can view information about this issue at


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YBSA Monthly Report December, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report
December, 2017

Seasons Greetings! YBSA wishes everyone a successful & healthy 2018

Reservoirs & Water Supply: The stored water in the Yakima Basin Reservoirs is more than half of capacity. The snowpack this year is less than last year at this date. We still have the next three months for the snow to accumulate enough moisture to provide two-thirds of the water needed, along with the reservoirs for instream flow (fish) and out-of-stream use (agriculture) in 2018.

Lower Yakima River Thermal Barrier: A subcommittee of the Integrated Plan Group is reviewing all possible ways to make the lower Yakima River more passable for returning fish. Additional water is needed in the river to solve the problem.

Lake Kachess Drawdown: The Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plan and Keechelus Reservoir to Kachess Reservoir Conveyance Supplemental Draft EIS is to be completed by the end of December 2017. Once the document is available, public hearings will be held along with written comments prior to the Bureau of Reclamation making a decision. According to federal legislation the beneficiary of the added water will be responsible for the costs. The decision cannot be made until the total cost of the project is identified. Also, information of annual water supply that would be available each year based on climate change information should be included in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Lake Cle Elum Fish Project: Work continues to create fish passage. A system is being constructed in the Lake to place a helix and tunnel to allow the fish to return to the Yakima River. A facility to move the returning salmonoids from the river to the lake is being considered. A catch and haul or a new system, Whooshh™, which shoots the fish in an enclosed pipe into the lake is being reviewed.

Construction of the radial gates to raise Lake Cle Elum’s level 3 feet was completed in April. The Bureau of Reclamation is now working with the Forest Service and landowners to install shoreline protection. It is estimated to take approximately the next 5 years to complete. No additional water can be stored until the shoreline protection component is completed, and all additional storage will be dedicated for instream flow for fish. The first shoreline protection contract was awarded for the USFS Cle Elum River Campground to be moved in August 2017 and construction is set to begin fall 2017.

The Lake Cle Elum Project is estimated to be completed in 5 to 7 years if funding becomes available.

Pump Storage: The Columbia River Pump Storage Project which is listed in the Integrated Plan Storage Components needs to be reviewed and updated. The Pump Storage project (Black Rock) contains the needed water for the Yakima Basin. The in-basin storage has been evaluated for 8 years with no appreciable increase in water storage.

Please contact YBSA and comment on the need for a Pump Storage project to provide water for the Yakima Basin. Write to YBSA at P.O. Box 30, Prosser, WA 99350. Also you can view information about this issue at


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YBSA Monthly Report November, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report

November, 2017

Kachess Final EIS: The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Ecology are still working on a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Lake Kachess pumping project which will drawdown an additional 200,000 acre/feet of water form the Lake. A Senate bill proposed by Senator Cantwell states the beneficiary of the new water will be responsible for the cost. The Senate has not considered the proposed legislation.

U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse submitted legislation in the House of Representatives that supports the Yakima River plan which would:

  • Provide greater water supply reliability for farmers and communities.
  • Secure the water that communities need to meet current and future demand.
  • Protect over 200,000 acres of currently unprotected forest, shrub steppe, and river habitat.
  • Enhanced habitat along the Yakima River and its tributaries.
  • Implement water marketing and banking so that water is more easily delivered when and where needed.
  • Build fish passage to allow salmon, steelhead, and bull trout to travel throughout the basin.

Meeting with Yakima County Commissioners: YBSA met with the Yakima County Commissioners to discuss the thermal barrier that is creating a problem for returning salmonoids in the lower Yakima River. We expressed our concern to the commissioners that the storage project located in the Yakima Basin in the Integrated Plan may not be completed. An additional storage project listed in the original Integrated Plan was a review of using Columbia River water to address the water needs in the Yakima Basin.

Lower Yakima River in Integrated Plan: The information in the Integrated Plan implies that there will be less water provided for instream flow in the lower Yakima River.

Adverse Climate Change Effects: In a review of all water storage projects completed with adverse climate change, 29 out of 90 years (about 1/3 of the time) less than 70% of the water would be available.

Reservoir Water Storage: Water Storage in the Yakima Basin is progressing at a normal rate. When all reservoirs are full they will only provide 1/3 of the annual water needed for instream and out of stream uses.


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YBSA Monthly Report October 2017

YBSA Monthly Report

October, 2017

Lake Kaches Plan: The Environment Impact Statement for the pumping project at Lake Kachess is still being prepared. YBSA received a report on the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Hydrology and Economic Analysis: Supply, costs, and impact insights. The report included a technical review of the Lake Kachess drawdown and the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan that showed that the basis for the conclusions listed in the technical review did not provide a true account of the amount of water that would be available annually and the cost and benefit of the plan.

There needs to be a 3rd party peer review to affirm the assumption and analysis of

  •  Hydrology
  •  Economics
  •  Fish Recovery
  •  Community Impact


Fish: a review of fish population status:

  1. Numbers of fish in the Columbia Snake River Systems. The federal government and others have spent 17.9 Billion Dollars ($17,900,000,000) on fish restoration projects during the las 35 years. In 2015 approximately 85% of the Columbia Basin Sockeye run was lost due to Thermal problems in the Columbia River and its tributaries. The same issue is the problem in the Yakima River
  2. The Yakima River provides the greatest potential for salmon restoration in the entire Columbia Basin. However; there is a major issue or obstacle. It is the “Thermal Barrier” (TB)! The TB is the most critical limitation to the restoration of salmon in the Yakima River system and there are several factors contributing to this limitation. We need to understand the reasons and causes of the thermal barrier.

Also, the thermal barrier in the lower Yakima River causes a problem. Without a means to provide salmonoids an opportunity to move from the Columbia River through the lower reaches of the Yakima, the improvements upstream may not provide the benefits estimated.

Meeting: YBSA met with U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse and expressed our concern with the Integrated Plan to improve fish passage without addressing the thermal barrier that limits the number and time salmonoids can return up the Yakima River

Reservoir Levels: At the end of the irrigation season in the Yakima Basin the water remaining in the 5 reservoirs is at 39% of capacity. This winter and spring the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the water to control instream flow, increase storage, and possible flooding.


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YBSA Monthly Report September, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report
September, 2017

Water Adjudication: The adjudication process to determine who has a water right and how much water is to be concluded in December after decades of study and meetings. Everyone had an opportunity to have your questions answered in a meeting at the Department of Ecology headquarters in Yakima. The final report is being prepared.

Integrated Plan Update: Cle Elum fish project will take 5-7 years to complete once the money is available.
There will be no new funding for the Integrated Plan project without a capital budget.

Roza Water Storage: The Roza Irrigation District has completed a storage facility in the Lower Yakima Valley. It holds 3-4 days of water to be used in the lower system.

Columbia Basin Hydropower: See the link for information on hydropower projects operating in irrigation in the Columbia Basin.


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YBSA Monthly Report August, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report

August, 2017

Water for the Yakima Basin: The water remaining in the 5 reservoirs is at 50% of capacity. With higher than average temperatures and an irrigation season that will need stored water for approximately 45 more days, it appears there will be enough stored water for 2017. The percentage of total water available in all the reservoirs drops 1-2% per day. Last year’s large snowpack and spring rains provided 2/3 of the water needed this summer.

The Norse Peak and Jolly Mountain fires are destroying large amounts of cover in the Cascade Range. That cover helps hold the snowpack which supplies the water needed for the Yakima Basin. That and possible climate change contribute to the need for additional storage.

Adjudication Yakima River Basin: The Department of Ecology has set a public hearing at the Department of Ecology in the Union Gap office for Wednesday, September 6th from 5:00-7:00 pm.

The Ecology and the Yakima River Basin are entering into a new era as the state’s longest water right adjudication will soon be finalized. The historic Ecology vs. Acquavella et al has helped to clarify the state’s water laws and will provide water users certainty. Old claims and conflicts are being settled and the foundation laid for successes we’re seeing with the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

Acquavella adjudication winding down. In a fertile valley where water is king Yakima River water-rights case clarifies water law while drought has plagued our state. For a retrospect, please read the ECOconnect blog at

Lake Kachess Drawdown: The Environmental Impact Statement to determine the effect of the drawdown of Lake Kachess on the environment, what mitigation will be necessary, and the cost-benefit of the project is needed to determine the viability of the project

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YBSA Monthly Report July, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report
July, 2017

Yakima Basin Water Report: Water flowing into the five reservoirs is at 84%, and 106% is being released. In the Cascade Range above the five reservoirs, no measurable precipitation has been recorded in July. The total capacity of all reservoirs is at 81% as of July 27.

Funding for the Integrated Plan: The State Legislature adjourned without adopting a Capital Budget. Funds for a number of projects listed in the Integrated Plan for the Yakima Basin are not available until the Capital Budget is approved.

Steelhead in the Yakima River Basin: About 1,600 returning steelhead were counted by June 30 at the Prosser Dam. This is less than half the number that returned last year. More habitat improvements in place will help improve the number of steelhead returning. Droughts and climate change contribute to the smaller runs. Click on the link to see the Yakima Herald Republic story “Washington Steelhead Reach Worrisome Lows”.

Lake Cle Elum Dam Fish Passage: A new method for transporting salmonoids calleda Helix from lake Cle Elum reservoir to the Yakima River below the dam has been designed. Transportation of returning fish in the Cle Elum River over the dam was done by a catch and haul method. A new method is being tested. “Wooosh” as it is called is a 1,700-foot-long tube that shoots the salmon from the river over the dam into Lake Cle Clum. It’s to be used to transport 3,500 Sockeye salmon over the dam. See the story in the Northern Kittitas County Tribune, July 20 edition.

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YBSA Monthly Report June, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report

June, 2017

Federal Allocation: It was reported at the June 21st Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Work Group Meeting that the Feds allocated a total of $16.8 million, $4 million for fish and $4 million for conservation.

EIS Lake Kachess: The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the drawdown of Lake Kachess using a floating pump system is still being prepared. Due to the number of changes from the first EIS distributed 2 years ago, an amended EIS will be distributed for comment soon.

Economic Study Report: A report on the draft of the economic study was given by members of the subcommittee. It is still being refined. The study will evaluate the effect on the basin’s economy with all the storage projects completed: pumping water from the original Lake Kachess, enlarging the reservoir at Bumping Lake, building a reservoir in the Yakima River Canyon by pumping water to the reservoir, and improvements at Lake Keechelus and Rimrock. The pool raise at Lake Cle Elum will be used for fish passage and additional instream flow for fish.

Presentation After Work Group: After the Integrated Plan Work Group meeting ended a presentation was made by Jay Schwartz and Bill Campbell on the effects of the Kachess pumping project. They presented a different review of the water available annually from Lake Kachess and a cost benefit analysis. Also, a panel of Roza farmers discussed the need for additional water and how drought years affect agriculture.

To see the Ellensburg Record story, “Lake Kachess Project Debated at Water Plan Meeting” Click Here

Pump Storage of Water: Pump storage of water from the Columbia River for irrigation was and still is an important solution to addressing drought conditions.


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YBSA Monthly Report May, 2017

YBSA Monthly Report

May, 2017


Water Available: The fall and winter snow fall provided water necessary for fish and irrigation in the Yakima River Basin. The water stored in all 5 reservoirs combined is at 96% of capacity. The stored water will be used when the snowpack has melted to supplement the flow in the Yakima River. This summer is the first time in the last few years to guarantee enough water for instream and out-of-stream needs.

Integrated Plan Water Storage Update: Bumping Lake expansion and construction of a new reservoir, Wymer, are still being evaluated. Lake Cle Elum expansion and fish passage improvements are continuing. The 14,000 acre/feet increase in Lake Cle Elum will be used for instream flow for fish. Total cost of the Cle Elum project has not been determined.

Lake Keechelus, the lake along I-90, is to be used to pipe water to Lake Kachess.

Lake Kachess pumping plan is still being considered. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which has taken 3 years to complete, will identify the costs of the project’s construction and maintenance along with mitigation for environmental damage. Federal legislation stated the developers of this project should be required to pay for it. The water available from the Lake Kachess project will not meet the needs identified in the Integrated Plan.

The Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study (Black Rock, 2008): The Final EIS prepared by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation does not consider the benefits provided by the Black Rock plan compared with the respective impacts and costs to provide justification for moving forward with any of the alternatives.

One of the storage projects listed in the Integrated Plan is Columbia River water. The Feasibility Study evaluates storing Columbia River water in Black Rock Reservoir which would provide up to 1.3 million acre/feet of water for irrigation purposes. The water not withdrawn from the Yakima River would be available for instream flow.

If the value of fish in the Integrated Plan was included in the Storage Study and the availability of wind generation were considered the benefit and cost numbers might be different.


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