Benitz wants board to firm up stance on water storage project

Benton County Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. wants his fellow board members to take a stand for including water storage as an alternative for improving the Yakima Basin's water supply.

For the second time within a month, Benitz raised the issue at a commission meeting, saying the Yakima Basin Water Enhancement Program committee that will recommend alternatives needs to know what Benton County officials want.

"We need to move forward on this," Benitz said, urging commissioners Leo Bowman and Jim Beaver to take a stand for including water storage on the projects list.

"The four proposed projects won't help in-stream flow," Benitz said, adding that Benton, Yakima and Kittitas counties need to be "aligned" in making a recommendation.

He said the Yakama Nation, which also has input to the committee, has not been advised about the three counties' thoughts about water storage.

"Is this a line in the sand and will it split the organization and do us harm?" Bowman asked.

Benitz said if the counties are careful about not specifying a particular storage project it should not alarm tribal and environmental interests.

Commissioners left the topic without reaching a consensus. But Benitz said the sooner Benton County can sign on to a letter recommending water storage be included as a viable option for improving water supply in the Yakima River Basin, the better.

Also Monday, the commissioners:

w Accepted as complete a financial analysis on moving the county seat by the consulting company of Entrix of Portland. Formal acceptance ends the process and declares the $50,000 study finished.

w Discussed how to proceed with splitting the cost of about $900,000 for road improvements in the Cottonwood Commercial Plaza area and near Cottonwood Elementary School.

w John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com