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On December 11, 2007, amendments to Chapter 173-545 WAC (the Instream Resources Protection Program for the Wenatchee River Basin, WRIA 45) were adopted.
The changes do not affect people who have existing water rights.
The existing water management rule (adopted in 1983) was amended to guide water use planning and decision-making for future human domestic needs while maintaining enough water in streams to protect important fish species and existing water rights. The rule amendments were recommended by the Wenatchee Watershed Planning Unit. Specifically, the rule amendments:
Watershed Planning, under Chapter 90.82 RCW, began in the Wenatchee Watershed in 1999. The initiating governments are the City of Wenatchee, the Wenatchee Reclamation District, and Chelan County. Chelan County is the Lead Agency.
The Wenatchee Watershed Planning Unit is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders representing a wide range of interests. These interests include local governments, tribes, state and federal agencies, irrigation, agriculture, forestry, community groups, conservation groups, economic development, recreation, and individual citizens.
The Wenatchee Watershed covers 1,370 square miles and is located completely in
Chelan County. The WRIA extends from the snowfields, glaciers and steep,
forested Cascade Mountains, through orchards in the Wenatchee River Valley,
to the shrub-steppe of the eastern watershed at the confluence of the
Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers.
The headwaters of WRIA 45 originate in the Cascade Mountain range as the Little Wenatchee and White Rivers. These rivers flow into Lake Wenatchee, the source of the Wenatchee River. Various tributaries to the Wenatchee River add significant volume to the river.
The Chiwawa River, White River, Little Wenatchee River, Nason and Icicle Creeks are the source of over 90% of the surface water within the watershed. The Wenatchee River discharges into the Columbia River in the City of Wenatchee.
Snowmelt is a primary source of late summer and fall streamflow in the Wenatchee Watershed. Variability in winter precipitation results in highly variable streamflow, especially in late summer and early fall (July-October).
Water demand is highest during the period when streamflows are lowest. Water is needed during this critical time of year for aquatic habitat, fruit production, fire protection, increased tourism needs, domestic irrigation and household needs, and municipal use.
Water critical basin
The Wenatchee Watershed has been listed by Ecology as one of 16 basins in the state with critical (over-appropriated) and inadequate streamflows for fish.
Spring Chinook in the Wenatchee Watershed have been federally listed as endangered and bull trout and steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Listings occurred in 1998, 1999, and 2006 respectively.
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