Water plan faces scrutiny - Watershed plan calls for both water storage and conservation projects

The Daily Record


Kittitas County, WA - A watershed management plan for the Yakima River Basin calls for both water storage and conservation projects to stabilize supplies in the three-county basin.

The plan, in the works for four years, is now available for review and comment by citizens in Kittitas, Yakima and Benton counties. In Kittitas County, it is available at Community Development Services.

Each county, through its board of commissioners, must approve the plan that will guide water management and projects for years to come, said Kittitas County Commissioner Max Golladay.

"It is a road map for the future use of water in the county and for prioritizing water projects that affect all the major uses of water," Golladay said. "For fish, cities, irrigated agriculture, recreation, everything."

A summary of the plan concludes that conservation projects alone won't meet the need for more reliable sources of water in the basin and demands for the future. The plan also calls for water storage projects to bolster supplies for all water users.

Golladay said the Tri-County Water Resource Agency was reconstituted in early 1999 to undertake watershed planning as authorized by House Bill 2514 in 1998. State Department of Ecology grants aided the agency in hiring consulting firms and organizing study and planning units to concentrate on parts of the plan.

The agency is made up of local elected officials. State and federal agencies were part of the planning units that formed the details of the plan, Golladay said.

The Yakama Nation, early in the process, decided not to be part of the local effort.

Commissioner Bruce Coe, before being appointed to the Upper County seat on the Board of Commissioners, represented Kittitas County on the Tri-County Water Resource Agency's storage and water management committee and the planning unit.

"This plan is very important because it reflects the first time in about 30 years that local governments came together in the basin to seriously talk about the need for water storage," Coe said. "The discussion didn't take place in the past primarily because of environmental group opposition."

He said the plan has a broad base of support because of the wide involvement in developing it. Coe said taking part in the plan were representatives of city and county governments, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, recreational interests, irrigation groups and many others.

Golladay, a former chairman of the Tri-County agency board, said HB 2514, developed by former state representative Gary Chandler of Moses Lake, envisioned a watershed planing effort based on efforts by local governments, not something pushed by state or federal governments.

A public hearing has not been set for the plan, Golladay said, but he expects his fellow commissioners to soon discuss how to involve the public in the adoption process.

Golladay said legislation is now pending in Olympia that would help local governments to implement their plans.


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