'Water is the lifeblood of our state,' governor says

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Gov. Chris Gregoire is urging federal and state funding for a $5 billion water and habitat plan for the Yakima basin while the Sierra Club and other groups oppose the plan because it includes two new irrigation dams.

The governor is seeking congressional and state authorization and funding for the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state Department of Ecology released the final programmatic environmental impact statement for the plan on March 2. It is a culmination of 2 1/2 years of work by a group of local, state and federal agencies, irrigation districts, environmental organizations and the Yakama Nation.

"Water is the lifeblood of our state," Gregoire said in a news release.

"Our communities, our $1 billion agricultural industry and our fish all depend on a reliable source of water to survive and thrive," she said. "The sooner we're able to provide a constant source of water the sooner our entire region will benefit."

The plan calls for improving water supplies for the Yakima Basin Irrigation Project and providing fish passage at 100-year-old reservoirs in addition to other fish and habitat enhancements. A multitude of crops grown along the river would benefit. Among them are: timothy hay, mint, apples, cherries, peaches, asparagus, potatoes and other vegetables.

The Sierra Club, Friends of Bumping Lake and the Endangered Species Coalition are among groups opposed to the plan because it proposes two new irrigation dams. One at Bumping Lake would flood about 2,000 acres of national forest and generations-old family cabins. Closer to Yakima, 1,000 acres of shrub steppe habitat along Lmuma Creek would be flooded by the new Wymer Dam at the creek and near the Yakima River Canyon.

Last fall, Gregoire joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., in Yakima to support the plan.

Online

Washington State Department of Ecology: www.ecy.wa.gov

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