Monthly Report Archive

Monthly Report

YBSA Monthly Report March 2021

YBSA Monthly Report

March 2021

Storage: The Yakima River System Storage (Keechelus, Kachees, Cle Elum, Bumping & Rimrock) is at 63% capacity which is average for this time of year. Cle Elum and Bumping Reservoirs are just over 50% of capacity.

Snowwater content in the upper Yakima Basin and Naches Basin are above 125%. Snowwater content after spring runoff will determine if enough water will be available for agriculture and instream flow. If not storage controlled water will be released to provide the needed water. During the first week in June, water will be released from the reservoirs.

Yakima Integrated Plan: The March Workgroup meeting discussed environmental, conservation and fish enhancement projects. The group continues to endorse improvements in the Yakima Basin but has not addressed the need for additional water. Additional water is needed to guarantee water for irrigation and instream flow for salmonoids. The salmonoids have a difficult time returning up the river to the improvements because insufficient water flowing in the Yakima River has created a temperature barrier in the lower Yakima River. The low river levels have almost eliminated the resident fish and curtailed the returning salmonoids. Only new water like the water from the Columbia River will provide what is needed to solve the Yakima Basin problem.

Irrigation: Water began to be diverted from the Yakima River into the irrigation canals to prime the canals prior to the start distributing water to farms. The water will be available from spring runoff.

YBSA Monthly Report February 2021

Storage: Reservoirs are at 59% of capacity. Storage capacity is at the same amount at this time last year. Snow water equivalent has increased to 120% of average. Future forecast is for warming temperatures and the first taste of Spring.

Cle Elum Dam Fish Passage Project: The juvenile fish passage, using the helix, to transport the fish from the lake through the dam to the Cle Elum River. The upstream passage will be to catch the fish at the base of the dam, load them in trucks, and haul them to the Cle Elum River above the dam. Work continues on the project to secure the Helix and complete the passage tunnels during 2021.

Increasing the elevation of Lake Cle Elum to improve the fish passage for better use of the Helix is continuing. Campgrounds must be moved or removed and shoreline protection has to be increased.

Sockeye Study: The rate of migration up the Yakima River in 2019 was low due to high water temperature in the lower river. The 2020 study has been completed and will be published in March 2021.

Surface Water Storage: Lake Kachess Drought Pumping Plan continues to be evaluated. Total cost for the project has not been estimated. The Roza Irrigation District will be responsible for most of the costs.

Other storage projects in the basin are still being studied with no end in sight.

A project that can solve the water needs in the Yakima River for instream flow and out of stream use is the mighty Columbia River.

Coho: 82,000 Coho are trucked from the Marian Drain Hatchery southwest of Wapato. The Marian Drain Hatchery raises Trout and two types of Salmon: Summer Chinook and Coho.

In the middle of March, when the fish reach 4.5 inches in length, they are trucked to the Holmes Acclimation site and released in a bypass channel which flows into the Yakima River.

Trout Unlimited: Instream flow in the Yakima River is crucial for continuing salmon recovery. The organization is seeking the opportunity to lease water rights to increase flow in the Yakima River to protect and increase the salmonoid population.

Saving Salmon: A conceptual plan to increase salmon recovery in the Snake and Columbia Rivers was introduced in Congress. The cost could be $34 billion to provide passage around the dams on the Snake River. Millions of salmonoids would have the opportunity to increase their number supplementing the fish number in the Columbia River.

Pump Storage: The pump storage project for the Yakima Basin would provide an opportunity to increase instream flow and out of stream use. Benefits include millions of salmonoids, additional surface water for agriculture, increase in ground water storage and less pumping, electrical generation, and recreation. The estimated cost of the project is $5.5 billion.

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan: YBIP is March 10th at 9:30 am.

YBSA Monthly Report January 2021

Storage: The 5 reservoirs are at 55% of capacity. Lake Cle Elum Reservoir, the largest reservoir, is 45% full. Snowpack in the Cascades, which provides the water for both instream flow and irrigation use, has snow water equivalent of 98%. In early March the Bureau of Reclamation will announce their estimates for water availability for 2021 water year.

Water for the Yakima Basin: Transferring water from the Columbia River to provide water for both the Sunnyside and Roza Irrigation Districts would enhance the water for the agricultural industry and provide more water in the Yakima River for instream flow for fish and improve the groundwater amount.

Returning Salmonoids: As reported in the Wenatchee World, Salmon are spawning in the upper Columbia River for the first time in years. See The flow in the Columbia River has provided the opportunity for salmon to return in greater numbers. If the flow in the Yakima river was increased, a greater instream flow of cooler water would allow the salmon to return in greater numbers in the Yakima River.

YBSA Monthly Report December 2020

YBSA Monthly Report

December 2020

Storage: The five reservoirs are at 46% of capacity which is just above normal for this time of year. For the last month, inflow of water into the reservoirs is greater than the amount released which is needed to maintain stream flow in the Yakima River.

Integrated Plan Goal: The Integrated Plan goal is additional water for fish and agriculture and improving habitat. Completed projects have not improved the water situation in the Yakima Basin. The Integrated Plan Work Group is looking for a new project-very little discussion about providing new water for instream flow for fish or out of stream use for agriculture.

Salmonoids: Sockeye and other fish are staying in the Columbia River at the mouth of the Yakima river waiting for more and cool water to attempt a return up the Yakima River. Studies continue to find methods to solve the problem.

Columbia River Water: Making new water available for Sunnyside and Roza Irrigation Districts would make more water available in the Yakima Basin which would improve all the projects with enough water for fish and the environment.

YBSA wishes everyone a happy holiday season and a prosperous and happy new year.

YBSA Monthly Report November 2020

Storage: Water stored in the 5 reservoirs is at 40% of capacity which is above average for this time of year. Lake Cle Elum Reservoir is being kept below normal so the fish passage facility can be completed.

Agriculture: Another good year for agricultural production, harvesting and processing. Management of water available in the Yakima Basin was sufficient for the agricultural industry. Climate change, high winds and smoke created problems during the growing season. The pandemic took its toll on the population, but a successful year was completed.

Lake Cle Elum Fish Passage: The juvenile fish passage over Lake Cle Elum Dam is progressing. When completed the fish will be able to leave the reservoir to move downstream from April 1st through the beginning of June. Catch and haul fish from the base of the dam up to the lake will continue when fish are available.

Sockeye Update: In 2018 a Sockeye tracking program was started. In 2019 20 fish were tagged and made it from Roza Dam to Lake Cle Elum Dam. Another study started in 2019 that began tracking Sockeye passage in the lower Yakima river from the mouth of the Yakima River to Roza Dam. Fish passage was found to be extremely low due to the low flow and high temperatures in the Yakima River.

Bull Trout: A program to catch and haul young Bull Trout from the low water in the Kachess River and Cold Creek is continuing. Each year some are moved upstream, and some are placed in a hatchery and later moved to the natural streams.

Water for the Yakima Basin: With an annual concern for water the need to look toward the mighty Columbia River would benefit agricultural and fish and our economy would boom.

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

YBSA Monthly Report September 2020

YBSA Monthly Report

September 2020

Storage: The water in the 5 reservoirs in the Yakima River Basin are at 30% capacity. This is average for this time of year. Irrigation supply is enough to provide water until the irrigation systems are turned off.

Instream Flow: The flow of water in the Yakima River this summer has been minimal, which has been hazardous to fish survival. The Yakima River is full of green moss due to low flow and high-water temperatures. Only 60 Sockeye reached the Roza Dam in the last few. The lower Yakima River is the barrier for fish to return to the upper Yakima River Basin.

Lake Cle Elum Fish Passage: The project to move fish from Lake Cle Elum to the Cle Elum River below the dam continues. Six tunnels to move fish from the lake to the Helix which then would allow fish to move when the lake is at its lowest level.

Sockeye Spawning: Sockeye hauled to Lake Cle Elum by truck are spawning in the upper Cle Elum River near Salmon La Sac. (See Newspaper Article below from the Northern Kittitas County Tribune, Thursday, September 24, 2020). When the smolt can use the system to move to the Cle Elum River below the dam they can then move on to the Columbia River if the water conditions are right.

Snowpack: A study by Central Washington University indicate all the wildfires will affect snow pack in the State of Washington mountains. If normal snowfall occurs the snow will melt sooner in the burned areas.

Budget: Money requested for the Yakima Basin project has been reduced. Projects to be funded are the Kachess project and fish passage.

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan: The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Workgroup continues to ignore the need for additional water for the Yakima River Basin. One of the listed projects in the original plan was to review the use of the Columbia River when all other means to find more water were unsuccessful.

YBSA Monthly Report August 2020

Storage: The 5 reservoirs in the Yakima Basin are at 48% full which is average for this time of year.

With Rimrock Reservoir at 83% of capacity the procedure called flip-flop will begin in the first couple weeks of September. Flip-Flop is the increase of water flow in the Naches River and a reduction of flow in the upper Yakima & Cle Elum Rivers to help save and improve fish habitat.

Lake Cle Elum Fish Passage: The tunnel to move the juvenile fish from Lake Cle Elum to the Cle Elum River is still being constructed. The innovative structure (the Helix) to get the fish from the lake should be completed in 2020. The facility will be used to enable the fish to reach the tunnel from April through June in most years. Fish returning to the Lake Cle Elum Dam will be trapped and hauled up to and placed in the lake.

Sockeye Study: The Yakama Nation and Bureau of Reclamation are studying the movement of fish from the Columbia River to Roza Dam.
Another study is attempting to find how many Sockeye migrate from Roza Dam to Lake Cle Elum Dam. Results found in 2019 showed very low migration success for Sockeye primarily due to high water temperatures in the river.

Work continues on designs to allow fish to pass on both Box Canyon Creek and Clear Creek Dam. The

Lake Cle Elum pool raise will affect both the Wish Poosh Campground and the Salmon La Sac Road. Plans are for both to be completed by May 2021.

Surface Water Storage: Lake Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Project is still being considered. The enormous cost and the amount of mitigation has Roza Irrigation District, the Department of Reclamation, and the Department of Ecology developing a new plan.

Consideration of site requirements is on going for Wymer Reservoir and Bumping Lake Reservoir Enhancement Project.

Fish enhancement programs continue to be identified and improved. With the low flow and high-water temperature in the lower Yakima River very few fish will be able to survive to use the improvements.

Once again, we continue to develop ways to enhance fish passage and distribution of irrigation water, but no new water has been made available.

Try the Columbia River!

YBSA Monthly Report July 2020

Reservoir Storage: The 5 reservoirs are at 74% capacity which is average for this time of year. With the hot summer the reservoirs receive 120 cubic feet per second (cfs) and are releasing 5900 cfs for instream flow and out of stream use. Lake Cle Elum is 66% full. Precipitation at the 5 reservoirs for the month of July is less than 1 inch.

Endangered Fish: The fish in the Lower Yakima River may not be able to survive due to the low flow in the lower Yakima River and the extreme heat. Salmonoids are in danger of dying unless more water can be added to the river. Climate change is creating an increase in need in finding a way to put more water in the Yakima River year-round.

Sockeye: For those who are interested see the article Tracking Sockeye: Fish Passage Study Salmon in the Yakima River-Research on fish could lead to new projects in the Yakima River Basin from the Yakima Herald-Republic from Monday, July 6, 2020 CLICK HERE.

YBSA Monthly Report June 2020

YBSA Monthly Report
June 2020

Storage: The 5 reservoirs are at 94% full. Water from the reservoirs is now being used to meet the need for instream flow and out-of-stream use (storage control). With the snowpack being depleted, storage will provide the water necessary in the Yakima Basin for the rest of the irrigation season.

Lower Yakima River: With hot temperatures approaching the Yakima Basin this summer, more water will be released from the reservoirs to meet the requirements for instream flow. Surface water returning to the Yakima River in the lower valley will increase the water temperature which is hazardous to fish.

Pump Storage: With pump storage, stored water becomes available for generation of electricity, agricultural usage, and instream flow for fish. At the present time, with the economy slowing down and the need for electricity lessening, power generation needs have been reduced because there is no way to store the electricity long term for future needs. To store the extra electricity that is available, water could be delivered to a pump storage facility which would become a safety net for future needs. The electrical power production from the release of the stored water would assist the electrical grid to prevent a brownout.