Inslee focuses on Yakima irrigation project

The governor says his first push will create jobs in Eastern Washington, help farmers and even respond to climate change.
Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee Photo: John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee put his first bill into motion Thursday, which will try to boost the water supply to the Yakima River Basin.

"This is just the start of our agricultural jobs plan," Inslee said.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, introduced the bipartisan bill Thursday at Inslee's request. Inslee linked the bill to his interest in climate change, saying it will help deal with shrinking Cascade Mountains snow packs.

Some environmental organizations have concerns about Yakima river irrigation expansion plans but a number of major green groups support it.

The bill calls for allocating $23.6 million from the state's capital budget for several projects at the headwaters of the Yakima River just west of Cle Elum. Inslee claimed the projects will create 316 jobs.

Most of the money will go to building a pipeline between Lake Keechelus, which is the Yakima River's source, and Lake Kachess, which is the source of the Kachess River, a tributary of the Yakima. Lake Kachess would be enlarged and modified to accept more ground water. A tunnel between Keechelus and Kachess lakes is to increase the water stored at Kachess Lake.  A new dam would be built at Bumping Lake, and the lake in Yakima County would be enlarged to be used as a reservoir for the Yakima River. Fish passages would be built on the dams in this section of the Yakima River Basin in hopes that salmon might migrate upriver of those dams. The fish passages would be installed at the dams at Clear Lake, Cle Elum Reservoir, Bumping Lake, Tieton River, Keechelus Lake and Kachess Lake

The bill also calls for $2 million to buy water rights in the Yakima River Basin to build up water surpluses so water can be easier rerouted to specific targets. And $700,000 would go to managing these projects.

Inslee said the projects will eventually increase salmon spawning areas, at the expense of some timberlands.

Republican leaders said the plan appears to have some beneficial ecological effects. However, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, criticized the bill, saying it would create government jobs and not private sector jobs. 

One of Inslee's main campaign planks was job creation. He wants to focus on job creation in the aerospace industry, life sciences, military, agriculture, information technology, clean energy and maritime trades. He also proposed research and development tax credits to young companies that they could sell to older firms if that is advantageous.

On Thursday, Inslee declined to say how soon he will unveil additional job creation programs.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 10:31 p.m. Inappropriate

It is not a good plan to flood old growth forest in order to place a dam at Bumping Lake. There are other aspects of this plan that are bad. Such, as moving water from one watershed to another, changes in water rights transference, and the pocket dam building precedence. The plan does not include any comprehensive water conservation efforts at the end user. The plan causes ecological harm in order to benefit only agribusiness.

It does not suprise me that Inslee would push this plan. The plan is promoted by Republican Congressmen and corporate agribusiness. Inslee's transition team consisted of corporate executives. Inslee will do what Microsoft, or any other corporation, tells him.

Also, Inslee needs to shut up about climate change, while he stands silent about the coal export terminals. Do not countennance coal exports, and then turn around, and talk about climate change. Goldman-Sach's, a corporation, is pushing the coal ports; so, of course, Inslee is for the coal ports. We will be a state controlled completely by multi-national corporations with Inslee as governor.

jhande

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Notice in the article the change to water rights in order to have it go to "specific targets". I wonder who the "specific targets" are? How long until even more subsidy and water gets directed to the "specific targets"? This proposal is a disgrace. Inslee is a disgrace.

We do not need Eastern Washington turned into a plumbed water system under central control of state government for distribution of water to "specific targets", or for sale to possible out of state buyers. California has already proposed to tap the Columbia River. The current Yakima proposal commodifies water. Commodities end up going to the highest, or most crony, bidder. Water is not a commodity. Water law, and water conservation efforts need to be targeted to benefit citizens, not corporate agribusiness, or the fancy crony "specific targets".

jhande

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 6:51 a.m. Inappropriate

A more pressing concern for Crakima would be to address the massive amounts of drugs that flow there from Mexico and the massive amounts of guns that flow back to Mexico from Crackima. I had to live there for a short period of time for work and it is a VERY unsafe place. Has one of the highest car theft rates n the country. Watched guns pulled several times in public places like the Mall or 2 blocks from the Police Station. It is basically a lawless portion of our State.

HJT

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 4:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Why is Crosscut unwilling to run anything other than one sided coverage of this bad and costly Yakima plan?

OK, I admit, I am against it. I don't think that spending billions of taxpayers' dollars to supply yet more water to agribusiness operations that already get massive quantities thanks to the taxpayers makes any sense. I don't think that drowning one of the last, and very best remaining old growth forests in the Cascades to do this makes a lot of sense.

But why does Crosscut run only articles like this one, which so disdainfully refers to the Bumping Lake ancient forests as "timber?"

Why can't or won't Crosscut give this plan anything approaching balanced coverage? This plan would give more water to people and entities that make no secret whatever of their total lack of interest in any kind of conservation. Go to the Yakima valley any time during spring, summer or early fall and what do you see? Sprinklers throwing endless water into the air, where most of it simply blows away. Paid for by you and me. Why should Yakima agribusiness take even the most basic steps to conserve and make their existing water go farther when there is always more?

The answer to that is clear: why bother saving when other people will subsidize your wasteful ways? No mystery there.

This Yakima Plan would be the biggest spending spree in Washington state since WPPSS. And it shows every sign of being just as successful. Why won't Crosscut look at the real details of it? In many ways, Crosscut seems to have filled the void left by the disappearance of real journalism from mainstream outlets. Except on this issue. Why?

Please, Crosscut, will you give us some balanced coverage here? Please?

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 5:08 p.m. Inappropriate

The Bumping Lake Dam would just be the first one. There is also a push to dam the Similkameen River in Okanogan County at Shankers Bend. The push seems to be to centralize control of all water in the state; and then to use the water in ways lobbyists for corporations seem fit. The Citizenry as usual, are handed the bill, and receive no benefit. Wealthy interests, and corporate interests gain all the benefit. I knew Inslee would be like this as soon as he appointed Microsoft Counsel Brad Smith to head his transition team.

jhande

Posted Wed, Jan 30, 10:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Gov. Inslee must have missed this October 2011 letter of opposition sent to the Washington Congressional Delegation:

Alpine Lakes Protection Society
California Water Impact Network
Endangered Species Coalition
Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs
North Cascades Conservation Council
Sierra Club, Washington State Chapter
Western Lands Project
Western Watersheds Project


October 24, 2011

The Ancient Forests of Bumping Lake: No to Sacrificing Our Wild Heritage

Dear Member:

We write to apprise you of a proposed Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project proposal from the Bureau of Reclamation/Washington State Department of Ecology “Yakima Basin
Working Group” -- which, if enacted, would destroy one of the now-rarest biological treasures remaining in our state: over 2000 acres of wild and magnificent ancient forests just east of Mt.
Rainier National Park, and abutting the William O. Douglas Wilderness.

If these forests are allowed to be destroyed by a new dam proposed by the Working Group, gone forever also will be their superlative habitat for endangered species such as the Bull Trout and the
Northern Spotted Owl, as well as their irreplaceable spiritual, aesthetic, and recreational values.

The ostensible ‘reason’ for even considering such a dam (after the Bureau of Reclamation’s refusal in 2008 to further study the project, and the Forest Service’s strong opposition) is to provide “insurance water” for Yakima Basin irrigators in case of a future drought, and improve instream flows.

We are completely opposed to any proposals which would require the elimination of National Forest roadless area surrounding Bumping Lake, including spectacular ancient forests. After over a century of heavy logging in the Washington Cascades, these forests are all that remain, of such ecological variety and huge individual size, still unprotected.

We can and want to support some of the other stated goals of the Working Group – including enhancement of salmon runs, more water supply through efficient water conservation, and acquisition of open space. But there are other and better – certainly less costly – ways to achieve these goals.

There is simply no way to replace, or to “mitigate” for these ancient forests, once they are gone.

We find it ironic – even tragic – that at the very same time as the whole state is celebrating the removal of two dams on the Elwha River, other special interests are actively promoting building
new dams, which will be just as destructive.

Please join with us to say “No” to destroying this wild forest heritage. The proposed Bumping Lake Expansion Dam is one “insurance proposal” that is simply not worth it. Lake Expansion Dam is one “insurance proposal” that is simply not worth it.

Sincerely

Rick McGuire, President
Alpine Lakes Protection Society
P.O. Box 27646
Seattle, WA 98165

Carolee Krieger, President
California Water Impact Network
808 Romero Canyon Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Brock Evans, President
Endangered Species Coalition
Box 65195
Washington, D.C. 20035

Joan Zuber, President
Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs
44731 South Elk Prairie Road
Molalla, OR 97038

Marc Bardsley, President
North Cascades Conservation Council
P.O. Box 95980
Seattle, WA 98145-2980

Scott Stromatt, Chapter Chair
Sierra Club, Washington State Chapter
180 Nickerson Str. Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98109

Janine Blaeloch, Executive Director
Western Lands Project
Box 95545
Seattle, WA 98145-2545

Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director
Western Watersheds Project
P.O. Box 2863
Boise, ID 83701

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