Inslee throws support behind Yakima Basin Integrated Plan

Governor Jay Inslee

On Thursday, January 24, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee (at right) publicly announced that his first legislative action as Governor was to introduce his Yakima River Basin Water, Jobs, and Fish bill, which directs the Department of Ecology to implement the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. We could not be more thrilled to have Governor Inslee add his endorsement and leadership to the work The Wilderness Society and its partners have been doing to create and implement the Plan, which would provide the Yakima Basin with water for fish, farms and families.

The new Governor has made this effort a priority by emphasizing its importance for adapting to climate change, partnering with agriculture to sustain jobs, and returning endangered salmon to the Yakima Basin. The basin's headwaters are located in Washington iconic North Cascades. The Yakima Basin is a rich agricultural area of fruit orchards, wine grapes, hops and many other crops, but in periods of drought, reduced stream flows cause native salmon to suffer and many farmers have to forego growing their valuable crops. Inslee’s bill (HR 1414SB 5367) will address each of these concerns as the “sweet spot” in his broader job’s agenda.

This is a burst of energy for the Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign, generated from efforts of The Wilderness Society and conservation partners like American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and National Wildlife Federation over the past 3 years to build new alliances with local communities, irrigators, county leaders, the Yakama Nation and state and federal agencies in order to build a compelling collaborative for the future of the Yakima Basin. State Representative Judy Warnick, a co-sponsor of this bill, indicates that the collective support for this bill from “tribes, environmentalists, the people concerned about fish, and farmer all together with the counties and cities” will generate the type of bipartisan interest needed to pass this bill.

Governor Inslee is encouraged by the bipartisan support of this bill, as well as the collaborative work that led up to its introduction. So are we.

Thank you, Governor Inslee, Representatives Blake, Chandler, McCoy, Ross, Stanford, Tharinger and Warnick and Senators Delvin, Fraser, Hatfield, Honeyford, King, Nelson and Shin.