Department of Ecology News Release - April 1, 2015
YAKIMA –With a drought on the horizon, the Washington Department of Ecology is looking to lease water from irrigators to keep streams from going dry in the upper Yakima River Basin.
The agency has scheduled workshops in Yakima and Cle Elum to explain how farmers can get paid for forgoing their senior water diversions and not planting a crop for the entire 2015 irrigation season. Those include hay farmers and other annual growers.
Snowpack conditions across the state are at record lows, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee on March 13 to declare a drought in three regions: Central Washington including Yakima and Wenatchee, Walla Walla and the Olympic Peninsula.
"Our leasing program is the primary component of our drought response here," said Sage Park, water resources manager in Ecology’s Central Regional Office in Yakima. "With snowpack levels dangerously low, the upper tributary streams are at greatest risk of going dry. These creeks feed the main-stem river that delivers water downstream to other senior water users."
The leasing program targets senior water rights in tributaries in the upper basin above where the Yakima, Naches, and Tieton rivers meet at the city of Yakima. Water right holders can learn about the proposed reverse-auction leasing program at the following workshops.
In a reverse-auction, water right holders declare what price they are willing to lease their water to the state through a bid process. Currently, Ecology is leasing water only in the Yakima Basin. Alternative programs will be considered as drought response continues to be assessed. More information is available on Ecology’s website.
The reverse auction is a cooperative effort with Washington Water Trust, and Trout Unlimited - Washington Water Project, non-profit organizations that focus on cooperative agreements to transfer water to instream flow. Water rights leased by Ecology will be managed as instream flow water rights within the state’s Trust Water Rights Program.
Joye Redfield-Wilder, communications, 509-575-2610, @ecyCentral
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