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House Approves Legislation Authorizing Phase III of Yakima Basin Integrated Plan

February 26, 2019
Press Release
Legislation now heads to President Trump for signature into law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement after the House of Representatives approved a legislative package that includes H.R. 1048, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, on a vote of 363 to 62. H.R. 1048 authorizes Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, an initiative to better accommodate the water needs of the agricultural community, conservationists, residents, and other stakeholders in the Yakima River Basin region. The Senate approved the legislation on February 12, so it will now head to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

“I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for approving this legislation to authorize the next phase of the Yakima Basin Project,” said Rep. Newhouse. “This has been a years-long bipartisan, bicameral effort, and the credit belongs to the state and local stakeholders, agriculture community, irrigators, conservationists, and tribes of the Yakima Integrated Plan Workgroup and Implementation Committee who worked together and compromised to find solutions. Their collaboration offers a national model for water resource management solutions, and it opened the door for Congress to act to support the state and local efforts in meeting the diverse water needs of the Yakima Basin. Because this project involves federal land, Congress must pass this legislation to allow implementation to continue, and I thank my colleagues for their strong support of this bill. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature into law.”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH REP. NEWHOUSE SPEAK IN SUPPORT OF YAKIMA BASIN LEGISLATION

Transcript:

Mr. Speaker,

I rise enthusiastically today to support this package that the House is considering; it includes one of my bills, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act. This legislation authorizes the next phase of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, which is a decades-long effort to address the vital water needs of the ag community, conservationists, and certainly my constituents throughout the Yakima Basin.

Mr. Speaker, I have not only worked on this project for the last three Congresses, but I hate to say it: My efforts go back even further—almost 30 years, more than I’d like to admit—as a farmer, former state legislator, and as director of the [Washington] State Department of Agriculture. But today demonstrates the closest we’ve ever come to sending this crucial legislation to the President to sign into law.

I firmly believe that the [Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Workgroup and Implementation Committee] are a model for the rest of the nation to follow to address divisive issues. I invite all of my colleagues to come see for themselves. This group represents a diverse array of local, tribal, state, federal, ag, environmental, and private interests—and they have worked through decades of painstaking compromise, collaboration, and efforts to find solutions.

So I rise to thank all of them for their hard work. All of the tribal leaders, the state and federal partners, the commissioners of the counties, conservation organizations, the cities and local irrigation representatives. And certainly, the Natural Resources [Committee], staff who have worked very hard on this all along, including Mr. Bill Ball.

Without their hard work and deep commitment to addressing this comprehensive issue, we would not be as close as we are today in getting this crucial step done. I urge strong support of all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for this package of legislation that we consider today.

Click here to read Rep. Newhouse’s recent op-ed in the Yakima Herald Republic.

BACKGROUND:

Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project:

The Yakima River Basin is one of the leading agricultural regions in Washington State and throughout the country. The orchardists, wine grape growers, and other members of the agricultural community inject approximately $3.2 billion into Washington’s economy and support countless jobs in the area. However, the demand for water in the region currently exceeds the resources available, especially during times of drought, which have hit the state especially hard in the past few years. As a result, water use has been restricted for junior water rights holders - or individuals who obtained water rights in 1905 or later – during times of shortages.

With researchers predicting that drought seasons will only become more common and get worse as snowpack in the mountains continues to decline, action needs to be taken so that stakeholders in the Yakima Basin can continue operating without having to worry about whether or not they will be able to water their crops or their backyard garden. As the nation has seen with extreme water problems in California, we must be proactive and have a viable plan in place should intense drought hit Washington.

After years of tough negotiations, the Yakima River Basin Plan offers a solution that will give water users more certainty, while also recognizing the concerns of conservationists and the various stakeholders in the Yakima Basin.

Specifically, the Yakima River Basin Plan would:

  • Provide greater water supply reliability for farmers and communities.
  • Secure the water that communities need to meet current and future demand.
  • Protect over 200,000 acres of currently unprotected forest, shrub steppe, and river habitat.
  • Enhance habitat along the Yakima River and its tributaries.
  • Implement water marketing and banking so that water is more easily delivered when and where needed.
  • Build fish passage to allow salmon, steelhead, and bull trout to travel throughout the basin.