Voluntary Regional Agreement Between Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association and Ecology
Ecology and the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) have entered into a Voluntary Regional Agreement (VRA) as provided for in RCW 90.90.030. The purpose of this VRA is to provide new water for the issuance of drought permits to existing interruptible water rights holders and new water rights on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. This VRA provides that the issuance of these new water rights cannot reduce or negatively impact stream flows in the months of July and August (April through August for the Snake River). To meet this standard of protection, Ecology and CSRIA will pursue conservation, storage, acquisition and other opportunities to provide new water to offset new withdrawals during the summer months.
In 2006, Ecology prepared the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Columbia River Water Management Program, which included the CSRIA VRA as an early action item. Because of changes to the VRA in its draft form, Ecology prepared a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) addendum to the Final PEIS
The Office of Columbia River awarded two grants for pilot projects investigating whether water retiming could be used to mitigate against new permits under the VRA. The pilots will determine if return flows from conservation projects and irrigation water management methods could be retimed to reach the Columbia River in late summer when instream flows are lowest.
How to apply for a drought permit under this VRA
CSRIA members may apply for a drought permit under this VRA by completing ALL of the following steps:
Before entering into a VRA, Ecology is required to conduct 2 statutory reviews under RCW 90.90.030. The first is a consultation with affected, county legislative jurisdictions, tribal governments and watershed planning groups, federal agencies, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The second is a 30-day public comment period.
On October 16, 2006, Ecology began the governmental consultation period. This consultation phase ran through December 15, 2006. Ecology and CSRIA negotiated modifications to the VRA based on consultation comments.
A public comment period on the proposed VRA was held from January 17 to February 19, 2008. On May 29, 2008, Ecology held a workshop in Yakima to discuss public comments. At this workshop, Ecology staff responded to the comments and explained the process for completing and implementing the VRA. Again, as a result of public comment, Ecology and CSRIA negotiated modifications to the VRA.
More information about VRAs
LEGISLATIVE REPORTS ON VRAs
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