Ecology curtails water rights as Western Washington dries

A sprinkler waters a field in the Chehalis Basin in southwest Washington. The Department of Ecology sent curtailment notices to 93 irrigators in the basin.

For the fifth straight year, 93 irrigators in the Chehalis Basin in southwest Washington have had their water rights curtailed to protect fish.

The Department of Ecology said May 30 it sent the curtailment notices to irrigators with water rights junior to minimum stream flows set in 1976.

The watershed, the second largest in the state, relies on rain. April was wetter than normal, but followed the fourth-driest March in state history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a drought emergency in the Chehalis Basin and 26 other watersheds, covering about half the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 43% of Washington is in a moderate drought.

The curtailment notices will bar junior water-right holders from diverting from the Chehalis, Newaukum, Satsop and Wynoochee rivers and their tributaries, according to Ecology. The department said the restrictions will remain in place until rain raises streams.

For the first year, Ecology extended the curtailment to four man-made lakes in Lewis and Thurston counties.

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