News from Washington Farm Bureau - The battle over water and land

Sept. 8, 2003 No. 85

BENTON COUNTY HAS SENT A LETTER TO INTERIOR SECRETARY GALE NORTON urging that additional storage be added to the department's list of principles for avoiding conflicts over water in the West. (Tri-City Herald, Sept. 3) In May, the department released a blueprint for avoiding crises and conflicts over water. The plan focuses primarily on conservation and improved resource management. But Benton County commissioners also want the department to support the proposed Black Rock reservoir that would hold up to 1.7 million acre-feet of water. "Perhaps there are areas in the West where all needs can be met through conservation, marketing and improved management of water resources," said Commissioner Max Benitz Jr., "but that is certainly not the case in the Yakima Basin."

NORTHWEST FARM SERVICES HAS CONTRIBUTED $50,000 TO THE YAKIMA BASIN Storage Alliance, which is promoting building of the Black Rock reservoir. (Yakima Herald-Republic, Sept. 4) The money will help pay the alliance's $30,000 a month operating costs, which include $16,000 for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to push the reservoir idea with Congress. The alliance has raised about $250,000.

THE BUREAU OF RECLAMATION HAS PURCHASED A 280-ACRE FEEDLOT ALONG Interstate 90 near Ellensburg, and will use the property and associated water rights to improve habitat for migratory fish. (Yakima Herald-Republic, Sept. 4) The bureau paid $3.245 million for the former Schaake Packing Co., which had been considered prime real estate for development. Since 1994, the bureau has paid more than $14 million for property along the Teanaway, Naches and Yakima rivers as part of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project.

CHELAN COUNTY AND THE PESHASTIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT HAVE REVIVED plans to construct a $150,000 to $300,000 fish ladder at a diversion dam on Peshastin Creek. (Wenatchee World, Sept. 7) Those plans were put on hold last summer when the Washington Environmental Council threatened to sue the irrigation district over the lack of fish passage and low flows. At the time, the district said it couldn't afford to improve fish passage and fight a legal battle at the same time. County, state and federal officials will choose from among several possible designs later this month. The district, which serves about 400 farms, also plans to convert three miles of open ditch to a closed pipeline to save water.

SEATTLE TIMES WRITER KATE RILEY NOTED IN A COLUMN TODAY THAT THE CITY of Seattle has never rescinded a resolution passed three years ago that called for breaching four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River. "That resolution has done more to divide the state than the prehistoric geothermal stirrings that created the Cascade Mountains," Riley wrote. The resolution, which remains the city's "official position," is "a symbol of Seattle's shortsighted, egocentric sense that nothing matters beyond the city limits... Why should the rest of the state care about finding solutions for Seattle's Alaskan Way viaduct or the Highway 520 bridge, if city slickers are so callous about the trials and livelihoods of their rural cousins."

MORE THAN 20,000 PROTESTERS ARE EXPECTED TO GATHER IN CANCUN, MEXICO, this week, with the goal of derailing the World Trade Organization's trade talks. Four years ago, demonstrators succeeded in shutting down WTO talks in Seattle, but may not be able to pull that off again. The Cancun talks will be held on a narrow peninsula that is accessible by only one road, and local police aided by members of the Mexican navy are prepared to stop any encroachment by protesters. The WTO ministerial will take place Sept. 10-14.


2003 Washington Farm Bureau. NewsWatch is a periodic update on news of interest to agriculture. Contact Dean Boyer, director of public relations.


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