Water Buying for Camps and Cabin Owner’s in the Yakima Basin

2015 Update

Since last summer we have been focusing on American River cabin tracts, and together with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), have been evaluating potential impacts to Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species, including Bull Trout, Steelhead, and Spring Chinook Salmon.  This analysis is now complete and is scheduled to be presented to the basin stakeholders at the Water Transfer Working Group (WTWG) next month.  Pending a “thumbs up” from the WTWG, Ecology can begin to actively issue new water right and/or mitigation contracts to American River cabin tracts.

Next up – Naches River (i.e., downstream of the Bumping and American River confluence) cabin tracts.  We have been in contact with representatives from many of these tracts and are actively collecting information about water use.  We expect to be able to present these groups to the WTWG for approval this summer.

Next Steps

If you are interested in learning more about the program, and have yet to be contacted by us or a designed representative in your cabin group, the following steps will need to be completed:

  1. E-mail the project contacts (below) to express interest in the program.  Please include your contact information, cabin location, and a brief description of your current water use, including whether it is surface water or groundwater supply, shared or community water system, or single domestic supply.
  2. Depending on our familiarity with the area, a brief site visit may be required.  During the site visit, we will request to observe the water source (spring/creek diversion, or groundwater well), place of use (i.e., cabin), and discuss your typical domestic water use. We will be scheduling site visits throughout the summer and fall of 2015.
  3. Following the site visit, you will be provided with a summary email notifying you if mitigation can be made available to you.  If you qualify, the e-mail will also remind you of the following steps to receive mitigation and a new mitigated water right permit (if necessary).
    1. If you already have a junior water right or permit-exempt domestic well, a permit is not needed, only payment for the mitigation and a signed contract is required.
    2. If you do not have a water right, a new permit is needed and the following steps are required:
      1. Ecology will need your verbal agreement to pay for mitigation, but payment will not be required until a water right permit is approved.
      2. Submit an Application for a Water Right ($50).
      3. Publish a notice in the newspaper (we will provide the notice, cost varies).
      4. Ecology presents the application to the basin stakeholder group (WTWG).
      5. Ecology prepares a draft Report of Examination (ROE), which will be finalized after 30 days if no comments are received.
      6. Ecology will send you a mitigation contract for signature and payment.

If there are any additional questions or concerns, please contact either Kelsey and/or Tyson by phone or E-mail:

Kelsey Collins
Statewide Trust Coordinator
Department of Ecology, Water Resources
Phone 509-575-2640
E-mail kesi461@ecy.wa.gov
  Tyson D. Carlson
Aspect Consulting
Phone 206-838-5842
E-mail tcarlson@aspectconsulting.com

Cost of Mitigation

For those with a junior water right, the fees are:

For those with no water right the fees above apply in addition to the following:

September 2013


Ecology is contacting individuals or cabin groups to schedule a site visit.  Please respond to the e-mail that has been sent.   If you know anyone that may not be getting these e-mails, please forward this web page.  We appreciate any help contacting interested parties.

Site visits include locating the water source and place where the water is being used.  Ecology will continue to plan site visits as long as the weather allows.  We plan to start again next spring.  You do not have to be present as long as we can locate your cabin and water source (and have your permission to do so).

If you have questions please contact:.

Kelsey Collins
WA Dept of Ecology, Water Resources
15 W. Yakima Ave, Suite 200
Yakima WA 98902
Phone 509-575-2640
E-mail kesi461@ecy.wa.gov

July 2013

Ecology is now selling mitigation from our water bank to cover camps and cabin owners.  Ecology and Aspect Consulting are contacting specific groups to identify how much water is being used and how much mitigation is needed.  An onsite visit will likely be required.  Once the quantities are established, Ecology will consult with other stakeholders (Yakama Nation, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Bureau of Reclamation) to ensure there is agreement on which uses can be mitigated.  If the stakeholders agree, Ecology will draft a contract to assign and sell mitigation.

The following cost breakdown will be part of the agreement between Ecology and the buyer of mitigation.  Payment will be due at the time the signed agreement is returned to Ecology.

The Assignee agrees:

  1. To pay a total fee of $XXX based on:

    1. $XXX for XX ac-ft/yr of consumptive water use based on the proportionate share of Ecology’s costs to secure the mitigation and provide it to the applicant. (1 ac-ft/yr is $3,643)

    2. $XXX for Ecology’s cost to assign mitigation to the USBR Water Service Contract from the date of signature on this agreement until January 31, 2049. ($22 per acre-foot per year, for 36 years = $792).

    3. $350 for contract development.

The total cost should be in the $100-$500 range per cabin depending on how much water use is used and the number of cabins.  The cost will be a little higher for non-water right holders (but still in the range) since there is more work required to issue a new mitigated water right versus mitigating for a junior water user.  Ecology is hoping to combine water users together by source as much as possible to keep the work load and cost down.

Ecology will be visiting the Bumping Lake and Rimrock areas to conduct site visits in the next few weeks.  Site visits for Keechelus, Kachess, and Cle Elum Lake will be conducted in August 2013.  Ecology will be calling the cabin and camp representatives to set up meeting times.

If you have questions please contact:.

Kelsey Collins
WA Dept of Ecology, Water Resources
15 W. Yakima Ave, Suite 200
Yakima WA 98902
Phone 509-575-2640
E-mail kesi461@ecy.wa.gov

Do You Have Water to Sell?

Ecology has been directed by the legislature to purchase senior water rights to mitigate for domestic users that face shut off in dry years.  The type of water rights we are looking for:

If you’re interested in exploring the option of selling a portion of your water right, please contact:

Kelsey Collins
WA Dept of Ecology, Water Resources
15 W. Yakima Ave, Suite 200
Yakima WA 98902
Phone 509-575-2640
E-mail kesi461@ecy.wa.gov

Background and updates

The United States Bureau of Reclamation has constructed works in the greater Yakima Basin that routinely deliver more than 2 million acre-feet of water for irrigation and municipal supply.  The Bureau delivers water to two main groups of water users: senior users and proratables.

Junior water right holders have water rights with priority dates after May 10, 1905, and since 2001 these users have been ordered by Yakima County Superior Court to not use water when proratables receive less than their full water rights.  Others may be using water without the benefit of a water right, which is not allowed under State law.

A general water adjudication proceeding for surface water rights has been underway in the Yakima River watershed since the late 1970s. In 2001, the Roza Irrigation District, a May 10, 1905 pro-ratable water right holder, obtained a court order curtailing the use of water by all junior right holders.  That order has been replaced with an order entered on June 10, 2004, limiting the exercise of water rights in the Yakima River and its tributaries by junior water users when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation imposes rationing for the Yakima irrigation project.  The restriction imposed by the court continues until the end of the irrigation season on October 31.

On March 10, 2005, the Governor declared a statewide drought emergency that authorized the Department of Ecology to access emergency drought resources.  As part of the drought response, Ecology filed a motion with the Superior Court to place 60 acre-feet of water into the State's Trust Water Program to offset post-1905 limited domestic water use.  The Court approved the transfer for the 2005 season.

Future curtailment of post-1905 water rights in the Yakima River watershed is likely to occur again.  In response to this issue, a group of cabin users worked with legislators to sponsor a study bill to identify the magnitude and scope of the problem, and to address potential solutions.

Legislature Passed Funding - $450,000 passed for Ecology to acquire water rights to serve as mitigation for camps and cabin owners

Ecology is currently negotiating with the Bureau of Reclamation to complete a federal contract for storage and delivery of water.  Earlier this year, Ecology and Reclamation reached agreement and signed a Memorandum of Understanding laying much of the ground work.


Transfer of Water Rights for Cabin Owners (08-1-951)- $450,000 State Building Construction Account

The appropriation in this section is subject to the following conditions and limitations: The appropriation is provided solely for the purchase of water for domestic water users in the Yakima Basin WRIAs 37, 38, and 39) that have a surface water right with a priority date later than May 10, 1905, as well as for all out-of-priority surface water users in the Yakima Basin.  A portion of the appropriation may be used for administrative and other costs associated with acquiring and transferring the water rights. The department shall recover all costs from participating domestic water users for their prorated portion of the cost of securing a water right or rights for this purpose and associated annual operational costs owed to the United States bureau of reclamation.  Funds recovered in this manner shall be placed in the drought preparedness account.

2006 Report to the Legislature - Potential Water Solutions for Domestic Surface Water Users

Hundreds of surface water users in the Yakima Basin are under court order to cease all water use, including their in-house use, during dry years. Many of the water users being told to shut off are camps and cabin owners, including both seasonal and permanent residences, that have been using surface water since the 1930’s or earlier.

These individuals and camp representatives understand that future shut-offs are inevitable and have asked the State Legislature for help. The Legislature responded by passing Senate Bill 6861 directing the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to report on “the issues surrounding competing users of surface water in areas where domestic water use has been curtailed by a court order and to suggest legislation or other solutions for resolving conflicts over limited water resources.”

Survey for Senate Bill 6861 (Yakima Basin Cabin Owners Bill)

To meet the requirements of the study, we need to focus on collection of information for seasonal and year-round residential uses to include information regarding residential water uses and the circumstances surrounding the competition between domestic uses and all other uses.

The end of official data collection for the survey was September 30, 2006.  Any on-line or written surveys after this date will be tabulated as to number received, and may or may not be included depending on quantity, budget and timing.

Cabin Owner’s Bill (Senate Bill 6861)

The Department of Ecology is to provide a report to the Legislature on the issues surrounding competing users of surface water in areas where domestic water use has been curtailed by a court order and to suggest legislation or other solutions for resolving conflicts over limited water resources.

The study is to include information regarding residential water uses and the circumstances surrounding the competition between domestic uses and all other uses. The study is limited to basins currently involved in a water rights adjudication and is to focus on collection of information for seasonal residential uses.

Timeline and Communication Strategy

On May 19, 2006, Ecology met with leaders of cabin owner groups in the greater Yakima area.  The issues that were discussed included:

With assistance from the cabin owner groups, a project timeline and communication strategy has been developed.


Water Buying Update for June 2011

In the last few months Ecology closed on its purchase of a 60 acre-feet per year water right.  This is the same 60 ac-ft that was temporarily assigned to cover junior water right holders in case of a drought (see last year’s update below).  Now Ecology can work on permanently selling mitigation credits based on this purchase.

First, Ecology will offer the mitigation to junior water right holders because they are a defined group that won’t require permits to use water (the most bang for our buck).  The 60 ac-ft is not enough to cover all the juniors based on the face value of their water rights.  Therefore, Ecology needs to find out how much water each junior is ACTUALLY using to stretch the mitigation as far as possible.  Since the price is based on volume, there should be incentive to only buy what is needed.

Once this first offering is complete, Ecology will assess if there is water remaining to run a second offering.  If water is available, Ecology will begin contacting the other users about buying mitigation.  Once the 60 ac-ft is fully dispersed Ecology will continue to pursue more water right purchases.

Ecology and its partners are always shopping for more water, but with prices going up, we’ll likely need the funds from selling this mitigation to buy additional water rights.  In the next few months Ecology will begin contacting junior water right holders and will keep the people on the e-mail list informed as to how the process is developing.

Water Buying Update for March 2010

The efforts of cabin and camp representatives are finally paying off.  We have taken a significant step to avoid shut offs in dry years by buying water to mitigate for impacts to pro-ratable water users by post-1905 domestic water users with rights confirmed by the adjudication court.

There are two things going on at the same time; we’re working toward a short term and a long term solution.  In April, Ecology will ask Yakima Superior Court to temporarily transfer water rights to trust for camps and cabin owners (the court only has jurisdiction to make temporary transfers).  If approved, the transfer will mitigate for this summer’s post-1905 domestic surface water users.  This short term solution requires no action by water right holders and, if approved by the court, will remain in effect through the irrigation season.  However, this solution does not cover water users without a water right (confirmed by the adjudication court).

The long term solution is still water banking.  The purchased water rights are also in the process of being transferred to trust permanently and managed in a water bank.  Once water is available, Ecology will offer mitigation credits to post-1905 water right holders so they can protect themselves from future shut offs.  Water right holders will need to apply to Ecology as early as this fall to get this process started.  Ecology will let you know when we can start accepting applications.

In the future, Ecology hopes to expand the water bank to offer solutions to non-water right holders as well.  Mitigating for non-water right holders is more difficult since it requires an additional case-by-case analysis.

Water Buying Update for March 2009

  1. Current legislation is being considered that would make water banking more flexible and encourage more involvement by water right holders.  For more information see Focus on Water Banking.
  2. The federal contract between the Bureau of Reclamation and Ecology was signed. This contract allows Ecology to store water in the Bureau’s reservoirs for new uses.
  3. The Bureau of Reclamation announced that snow pack and residual storage should be sufficient for the coming irrigation season. The Bureau does not expect rationing to occur. Therefore, junior water right holders (with priority dated water rights after 1905) should not face curtailment.
  4. Ecology has been developing forms and procedures to accommodate water storage and new use permits.
  5. Ecology is actively working on purchasing water rights from private water right holders.
  6. The money set aside for buying water is still available.

Water Buying Update for July 2008

A half dozen youth camps, hundreds of recreational homeowners, and other surface water users on White, Chinook and Snoqualmie mountain passes face a court order to shut off their water anytime the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rations water to its Yakima Project members.

Since the Legislature passed funding, Ecology has been working with contractors and directly bidding on water right purchases.  To date, Ecology has been unable to attract a seller of a valid water right that meets the needs.  An informational meeting was held on May 28, 2008 in Yakima to discuss launching a new appeal from camp staff and cabin owners directly to the public.  The following documents detail this meeting:

Related Links


For general information:

Kelsey Collins
WA Dept of Ecology, Water Resources
15 W. Yakima Ave, Suite 200
Yakima WA 98902
Phone  509-575-2640
E-mail kesi461@ecy.wa.gov