Saturday, January 06, 2007

Scoping the Yakima Project for New Storage Opportunities

"The Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington Department of Ecology will host two open houses and public scoping meetings in Yakima, Washington on the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study. The two scoping meetings will be preceded by informal open houses and will be held at the Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street, on January 23, 2007. Open Houses: 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.; and 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Scoping Meetings: 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.; and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. In addition to comments received at the scoping meeting, written comments will be accepted through January 31, 2007, and may be sent to: Bureau of Reclamation, attn: David Kaumheimer, 1917 Marsh Road, Yakima WA 98901-2058, or fax: (509) 454-5650. The meeting facilities are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired should be submitted to David Kaumheimer at (509) 575-5848, extension 232, by January 8, 2007."

More information is available at the Bureau's website. The Yakima Project, begun in earnest in the first decade of the last century, supplies irrigation water to 464,000 acres in south central Washington. This latest proposal for development is controversial due to the congressionally-mandated emphasis on the Black Rock dam.

The Storage Study was authorized by Congress in 2003. In accordance with the authorization, the initial emphasis of the study is to accumulate data and information on the Black Rock option. Concentrating initial efforts on this option will provide data and information comparable to the level of data of the other options. Two considerations will be studied and evaluated in the Storage Study:

1. diversion of Columbia River water to the proposed Black Rock project to be used as an "exchange supply" for irrigation entities in the lower Yakima basin, and

2. creation of additional storage within the Yakima River basin.

The study area is in south-central Washington. The Yakima basin covers about 6,100 square miles, including Kittitas County and portions of Yakima, Benton, and Klickitat Counties. When the feasibility investigation of importing Columbia River water to the Yakima Project users is considered, the Columbia River will be included in the location.

The Yakima basin is a major agricultural area of national significance. Quoting from the Bureau's Project webpage:

The record of crop production on the Yakima Project is outstanding. Nearly one-half million acres of sage-covered lands have been transformed into one of the richest agricultural areas in the Nation. Yakima County ranks first among all counties of the United States in the production of apples, mint, and hops. Principal crops are fruit, vegetables, forage, hops, and mint.