Black Rock Rally Draws a Crowd



Yakima, WA - Backers of the proposed Black Rock reservoir asked for a few more hands Thursday to help "push the rock up the hill."

About 400 people showed up at the Yakima Convention Center for a morning "Rally for the Rock" breakfast event to pump up interest in the project and to hear a request for donations.

The reservoir supporters, a broad coalition of Valley interests known as the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance, handed out pledge cards to those attending.

The alliance already has raised more than $400,000 on behalf of a plan to add the first new storage in the basin in more than 70 years.

Formed in 1999, the alliance is conducting lobbying to see the potentially $1.8 billion reservoir constructed. The proposed reservoir, east of Yakima, could hold up to 1.7 million acre-feet of water, more than doubling existing basin water storage.

Black Rock, to be filled with water pumped from the Columbia River, would enhance migratory fish and their habitat, and provide a more reliable water supply for farmers, communities and industry.

Sid Morrison, former state legislator, congressman and alliance board chairman, said the alliance is working to keep up the political pressure and public support to get the reservoir built.

"With your help, that rock will move up the hill," Morrison told the audience.

He said the basin's economic growth was fueled by local interests who brought the Bureau of Reclamation to the Yakima Valley in 1905. The bureau operates the storage and delivery system that serves 460,000 acres in three counties.

"Think of what you can do now that people 100 years ago did for us," Morrison said.

The alliance is looking for donations to fund its activities the next two years. At that time, a bureau storage study of Black Rock and other potential reservoir sites should conclude whether the ambitious project is feasible.

The study also is looking at expanding Bumping Lake and constructing Wymer reservoir, an offstream reservoir in the Yakima River Canyon.

The rally attracted numerous state and federal lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, and local elected officials.

A total of $6.5 million in state and federal funds has been allocated to the study. The U.S. House of Representatives approved another $1.5 million this week.

The study is estimated to cost $10 million and take five years to complete.

Also in attendance were two leaders of the Yakama Nation whose support is considered critical in obtaining the federal funds to build the reservoir.

Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Jerry Meninick, accompanied by Vice Chairman Virgil Lewis, said the nation, the largest landowner in the Yakima Valley, would do what it could to help the project.

"One thing we are continually responsible for is the restoration of anadromous fish and their habitat," Meninick said after the program. "We have through the course of years learned that a lot of habitat is missing."

Yakima auto dealer and alliance director Bob Hall of Yakima said the group needs about $34,000 per month to finance its lobbying and environmental and organizational work. The budget includes a $5,000 monthly reserve.

Hall said the alliance hopes donations from Thursday's rally will provide about $19,000 of that monthly amount.



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