More water during droughts if bill from central Washington senators becomes law

Senator Jim HoneyfordThe Senate today unanimously passed a bill intended to make more water resources available during droughts in central Washington. Senate Bill 5367 will now be considered by the House of Representatives before the end of the Legislature’s second special session of the year. Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, sponsored the measure, which was supported by Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake.

“The Yakima Basin has repeatedly suffered droughts that not only deprive the region of water but drain hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy of central Washington,” Honeyford said. “This bill will not only help to prevent those economic disasters in the future but has the added benefit of improving the natural habitat for salmon in the upper reaches of the Yakima River. It’s a great example of a win-win bill.”

Under the law created by SB 5367, the state Department of Ecology would work to enhance fish and wildlife resources, improve water viability and reliability, manage the variability of water supplies, and prepare for the climate uncertainties through operational and structural changes.

DOE would be authorized to implement projects designed to provide access to new water supplies within the Yakima River basin, enter into contracts that ensure the efficient delivery of water, and build the facilities necessary to do it all. Water supplies secured through the new methods would be allocated for both out-of-stream uses and to augment in-stream flows during a drought.

“It’s important to note that water rights in the area would be protected, as any yet-to-be appropriated water supplies resulting from this bill could only be used if existing water rights are not impaired,” Holmquist Newbry added. “Additionally, this plan would increase flexibility in managing the region’s limited water supply to both meet ecological objectives and improve the reliability of the water supply for irrigation, municipal supply and domestic uses.”

If SB 5367 – which stems from the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan – is to become law, it must be approved by the House of Representatives before Sunday.