Legislature approves $4 million to help fund a study of proposed reservoir east of Yakima - lake would nearly double existing water storage
Yakima, WA - There's good news and bad news in this year's water
outlook for the Yakima River Basin.
But there's hope. The state Legislature has approved $4 million to help fund a study of the proposed Black Rock reservoir east of Yakima. The lake would nearly double existing water storage in the Yakima River Basin. Since the basin would be filled from the Columbia River, it would also allow more water to be left in the Yakima River to meet various needs.
The funding is a significant development that dovetails nicely with efforts being spearheaded in Congress by 4th District Congressman Doc Hastings of Pasco. The feds earlier this year appropriated $1 million in their 2003 budget for the Black Rock study, which of necessity and future good water news must advance to the construction stage as soon as the studies deem it feasible.
It would be the first major storage upgrade since the five-reservoir network went on line: Bumping Lake in 1910, Kachess in 1912, Keechelus in 1917, Rimrock in 1925 and Cle Elum in 1933.
Keechelus is undergoing some dam repairs, with construction to be completed in November. But during the repair work, the reservoir has been operated at diminished capacity in a system that needs all the capacity it can get.
A taste of some early summer heat makes the forecast of adequate water supplies even more critical at a time when the overall economy of our agriculture-based area is slumping. We certainly don't need problems with crops this year.
The Bureau of Reclamation's forecasts have gotten better each month since the agency first projected in March that some users would receive just 71 percent of a full supply. A wet March and near-normal precipitation in April and May gradually improved the outlook, but imagine the scenario if there hadn't been that wet spring.
And we're not out of the woods yet. Bureau officials are still urging water users to conserve all they can to maintain as much water as possible in carryover storage for next year. That's always a critical component of the water supply situation.
The amount of water held in storage at the end of this season is estimated to be 146,000 acre-feet, slightly more than 10 percent of capacity. On average, season-ending storage is closer to 300,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot of water covers one acre of land to a depth of 1 foot of water.
So, let's be thankful for a reprieve from another drought year, thanks to a wet spring. And bring on Black Rock — and maybe an expansion of Bumping and/or some low-level re-regulating reservoirs down the line to capture some of that Columbia-bound spring runoff from the mountains that the existing reservoir network doesn't have the capacity to store.
This year-to-year scenario is just too shaky.
Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Robert
Bickler, Sarah Jenkins and Bill Lee.
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