WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) attended the Oval Office signing ceremony during which President Trump signed S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, a legislative package that includes H.R. 1048, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, into law.
H.R. 1048 authorizes Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, an initiative to better accommodate the water needs of the agricultural community, conservationists, residents, and other stakeholders in the Yakima River Basin region. The Senate approved the legislation on February 12, and the House approved the legislation on February 26.
“The future of our region’s agriculture economy depends on access to water storage, and with President Trump signing Central Washington’s legislation priority into law, today is an exciting day for everyone in the Yakima River Basin,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Not only does the success of this legislative effort show the way forward for bipartisan, bicameral cooperation, but it highlights the years-long work of state and local stakeholders, the agriculture community, irrigators, conservationists, and tribes as part of the Yakima Integrated Plan Workgroup and Implementation Committee. I was proud to work across the aisle with my colleagues to get this water solution bill for the Yakima Basin across the finish line.”
Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project:
The Yakima River Basin is one of the leading agricultural regions in Washington State and throughout the country. The orchardists, wine grape growers, and other members of the agricultural community inject approximately $3.2 billion into Washington’s economy and support countless jobs in the area. However, the demand for water in the region currently exceeds the resources available, especially during times of drought, which have hit the state especially hard in the past few years. As a result, water use has been restricted for junior water rights holders - or individuals who obtained water rights in 1905 or later – during times of shortages.
With researchers predicting that drought seasons will only become more common and get worse as snowpack in the mountains continues to decline, action needs to be taken so that stakeholders in the Yakima Basin can continue operating without having to worry about whether or not they will be able to water their crops or their backyard garden. As the nation has seen with extreme water problems in California, we must be proactive and have a viable plan in place should intense drought hit Washington.
After years of tough negotiations, the Yakima River Basin Plan offers a solution that will give water users more certainty, while also recognizing the concerns of conservationists and the various stakeholders in the Yakima Basin.
Specifically, the Yakima River Basin Plan would:
- Provide greater water supply reliability for farmers and communities.
- Secure the water that communities need to meet current and future demand.
- Protect over 200,000 acres of currently unprotected forest, shrub steppe, and river habitat.
- Enhance habitat along the Yakima River and its tributaries.
- Implement water marketing and banking so that water is more easily delivered when and where needed.
- Build fish passage to allow salmon, steelhead, and bull trout to travel throughout the basin.