A comprehensive land-use and natural resources bill that contains authorization for Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan passed the U.S. Senate on Feb. 12.
It passed by a 92-8 margin.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., worked on the measure and Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Kim Schrier, D-Wash., introduced a companion bill in the House on Feb. 7.
The 30-year, $4 billion plan is intended to boost habitat and water in the Yakima River Basin for fish while providing an additional 560,800 acre-feet of water through greater storage for irrigators. The goal is to provide junior water right holders 70 percent of their normal supply in drought years.
Cities, farms and fish in the 6,155-square-mile basin need 3 million acre-feet of water annually. Of that 1 million acre-feet is captured and used from reservoirs and the rest comes from snowpack runoff into the Yakima River that isn't stored. Irrigators use 1.7 million acre-feet. The basin's annual agricultural economic value, farmgate and processed, is estimated at $3.5 billion.
American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, the state Department of Ecology and several irrigation districts issued statements praising Senate passage.
— Dan Wheat