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Monday, February 4, 2013

Inslee’s First Request Bill Raises Concerns

News Release
February 1, 2013

Inslee’s First Request Bill Raises Concerns

Battles loom over controversial $5 Billion Yakima Water Plan

Contact:
  1. Chris Maykut (President, Friends of Bumping Lake) chris@friendsofbumpinglake.org   206.818-9778
  2. Brock Evans (President, Endangered Species Coalition) bevans_esc2004@yahoo.com 202.425-1517
  3. Karl Forsgaard (President, North Cascades Conservation Council karlforsgaard@comcast.net  206.330-8966
  4. Rick McGuire (President, Alpine Lakes Protection Society) rckmcguire@gmail.com  206.363-6954

Today conservationists expressed deep disappointment and anger regarding newly inaugurated Governor Jay Inslee’s first act as governor.  On Tuesday, Governor Inslee announced the submission of his first request bill to the legislature, a funding request for the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan (Yakima Plan).  The plan promises such benefits as temporary jobs, irrigation security, environmental restoration, and increased fish runs.  However, many local, state-wide, and national conservation groups have opposed elements of the Yakima Plan as it is written because of two highly controversial elements: the construction of two massive dams and the designation of treasured National Forest lands as National Recreation Areas for off-road vehicles.
“We are incredibly disappointed with Governor Inslee’s quick support of the Yakima Plan, particularly in light of the ongoing opposition that has been expressed by a growing number of conservation organizations,” said Chris Maykut, President of Friends of Bumping Lake.  “There is so much good that can come of the political attention being directed to the Yakima Valley right now, but spending $5 billion dollars and destroying ancient forests, critical habitat for endangered species, and beloved recreational areas is not worth what we as Washingtonians get out of the deal.” 
Two massive irrigation dams are at the center of the Yakima Plan. One of them, at Bumping Lake adjacent to the William O. Douglas Wilderness, would inundate and destroy a popular new National Forest campground, a thousand acres of ancient forest, 15 historic cabins, trails, and access roads to popular hiking spots.  In October 2011, the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, California Water Impact Network, Endangered Species Coalition, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, North Cascades Conservation Council, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, Western Lands Project, and Western Watersheds Project sent a letter to the Washington Congressional delegation opposing a new Bumping Lake dam.

In 2008, the Bureau of Reclamation studied the other project, Wymer Dam, north of Yakima, and found that it had a taxpayer benefit-cost ration of 31 cents of positive economic impact for every dollar that would be spent on it.
The Yakima Plan’s current proposal for two new National Recreation Areas within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest with 40,000 acres for off-road vehicle use is also meeting with stiff opposition within the conservation community.  Twenty-nine organizations signed letters in March 2012 regarding the proposed National Recreation Area designation, which poses numerous threats to the ecosystem, watersheds, and non-motorized recreational opportunities.  Despite numerous roundtable meetings throughout the fall and winter in the community about the NRAs, none of these 29 organizations has become supporters of the Yakima Plan.
“At a time when we as a state and a nation continue to struggle to fund basic social programs, keep state parks open, and redefine what our financial priorities are as a society, why would we support spending billions from our state economy on wasteful water projects?” said Maykut.  “Many if not all of the goals of the Yakima Plan can be achieved through legislation, mandatory conservation and water marketing, and using a thoughtful approach when it comes to the important issues that Yakima irrigators face.  As we saw with the Elwha Dam removal last year, the era of dam-building and ecosystem destruction should be over.”
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