Yakima farms get priority for water

By The Associated Press
The Seattle Times


YAKIMA, WA— A water shortage caused by a dry winter and spring has prompted a judge to issue an order that will cut off water to about 200 users this summer so it will be available to farmers in the Yakima Irrigation Project.

The order, signed in Yakima County Superior Court, affects water users who are outside the boundaries of the irrigation project and who have water rights issued after 1905 — users including the city of Roslyn, summer-cabin owners, nonprofit camps and ranchers.

State law requires that holders' newer water rights, known as junior rights, be reduced so the needs of those with older rights can be met.

Backers of the shut-off said it's of vital importance to farmers who pay for maintenance of the project reservoirs that store the water.

"This is not an issue of spending a weekend in the cabin. It is whether a farmer stays in business or goes broke," Roza Irrigation District attorney Tom Cowan told Judge Pro Tem Walter Stauffacher.

The 72,000-acre Roza district, one of the irrigation project's seven divisions, sought the shut-off with support from other irrigation districts.

Thursday's order is similar to one Stauffacher imposed during the 2001 drought. This time, though, irrigation districts requesting the shut-off opposed continued domestic water use or water for the camps.

The order will remain in effect until Oct. 31, two weeks after the project irrigation season ends.

Roslyn may not be affected by the order, since it obtained temporary water supplies to meet its municipal needs from developers of the Suncadia resort, said the city's attorney, Adam Gravley.

One irrigation district wants to come to the rescue of the nonprofit camps.

A Selah-Moxee Irrigation District attorney told Stauffacher the 7,000-acre district is prepared to transfer water to the summer camps, which include Camp Primetime for seriously ill children. Other camps are operated by the Boy Scouts, YMCA and First Presbyterian Church.

It was not immediately clear if the district has enough water available to meet the camps' needs. A committee of the federal Bureau of Reclamation, irrigators, fish agencies, the Yakama Nation and the state will consider the transfer requests and make recommendations to Stauffacher.



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