Washington State Department of Ecology - March 26, 2013

13-092R

REVISED: The sixth paragraph of this news release was revised for clarification after the original posting (3/26/2013 8:30 pm).

Progress made evaluating Yakima Basin water requests

YAKIMA– Progress continues to be made as the Department of Ecology (Ecology) evaluates pending requests for new water rights based on a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study that shows how new groundwater pumping affects flows in the Yakima River.

Water right processing in the Moxee and Wide Hollow subbasins is winding down, and Ecology plans to begin reviewing requests for new ground and surface water permits in lower Kittitas County next. Work remains under way in areas of West Richland, Richland, and Badger Canyon in Benton County.

Applicants are asked to consider a number of options to help the agency in making permit decisions in the context of study results.

The USGS study indicates new groundwater uses will reduce flows in the Yakima River. Also, some local aquifers are declining in response to pumping by existing water users.

“We’re finding that most people are setting aside their requests for water – an option that provides them time to seek needed mitigation or consider other alternatives,” said Sage Park, a water resources manager with Ecology.

Out of 293 applicants contacted so far, 126 of respondents have requested that their water application be placed on hold. Another 48 respondents have withdrawn their application and 15 applications have been denied. The remaining applicants have yet to return information on how they would like their water request to be processed.

Completion of the USGS study and computer model in the fall of 2011 provided the best scientific information available to make water right decisions and for achieving mitigation. It resulted from a legal settlement with the Yakama Nation and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that maintain new groundwater pumping only worsens the total water supply in the basin.

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Media Contacts:

Joye Redfield-Wilder; 509-575-2610; cell, 509-961-6277; jred461@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Yakima River Basin (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cro/yakimabasin.html)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)