Groups supporting an ambitious plan to expand water storage and provide environmental benefits in the Yakima River Basin are ready to spend money to build support for the plan locally and with state and federal lawmakers.
Yakima County commissioners this week approved an agreement with Benton and Kittitas counties to contribute $10,000 each to the public outreach effort. Basin irrigation districts will contribute another $30,000 to the effort, said Ron Van Gundy, a consultant to the Roza Irrigation District.
The counties plan to hire a government relations firm to seek congressional and state legislative support for the plan.
Commissioner Mike Leita said water is the biggest issue Yakima County faces.
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"The general public has to become aware of the critical nature of this plan," he said.
Other backers of the $5 billion plan, including the Yakama Nation and a coalition of nine conservation groups, are developing their own support activities.
Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said the water plan is key for the future of the Basin's economy.
"This sets the stage to address water needs for literally generations to come," he said. "It will take the community to encourage state and federal representatives to step forward and make this a priority."
Michael Garrity of the conservation group American Rivers and a member of the work group that devised the plan, said the groups plan outreach to other environmental organizations.
The plan includes adding storage at Bumping Lake and building the Wymer reservoir in the Yakima River Canyon, installing fish passage at dams, expanded water conservation, water marketing, aquifer storage, operational changes, and protecting forest and shrub-steppe habitat.
Earlier this month, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the state Department of Ecology issued a final programmatic environmental impact statement that recommends proceeding with the plan.
Individual elements face a full environmental review on their own before any construction can be authorized.