YAKIMA, Wash. — A bill authorizing the third phase of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan has been introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Kim Schrier, D-Wash.
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 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.
“The next phase of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is critical for the current needs and future growth of one of the richest agricultural regions in the West,” Newhouse said.
He called it a national model of collaboration among state and local groups, irrigators, conservationists, tribes and fish interests.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is leading a companion Senate effort.
Schrier said she appreciates the years of work by Cantwell and Newhouse and is proud to join.
“Irrigated agriculture makes Yakima a top agricultural producer, not only for the state, but the nation. The plan provides a path for our irrigation districts to make it through droughts and low snowpack and support important fisheries,” said Scott Revell, manager of Roza Irrigation District, the most threatened in droughts.
The House bill, H.R. 1048, is titled, “Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act.” The Senate measure is part of a comprehensive package of land-use and natural resources bills, S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act which is on the Senate floor for consideration this week.