News Release Archive

Reclamation, Ecology to Proceed with Next Phase of Yakima Storage Study

Media Contact: Diana Cross, (208) 378-5020,
Gerald Kelso, (509) 575-5848 ext. 202,

For Release: November 30, 2006

The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington Department of Ecology announced today their decision to move forward into the feasibility phase of a storage study designed to bring more water to the Yakima River basin.

During this phase, Reclamation and Ecology will explore any new, potentially viable alternatives that could benefit the Yakima River Basin, in addition to the two alternatives already identified.

Previous work identified two alternatives that warranted further analysis: the Black Rock Dam and Reservoir and the Wymer Dam and Reservoir with a pump exchange option. Both alternatives meet the study goals of improving the reliability of Yakima Project water supply during dry years, improving anadromous fish habitat, and providing water to meet future municipal demands.

However, in a study document released today, both alternatives are shown to have benefit/cost ratios considerably below 1, which means estimated costs outweigh the potential benefits of project construction and operation. The benefit/cost ratio is one of the main factors used to determine the best alternative in the Federal feasibility analysis.

"Although the benefit/cost ratios of these alternatives as currently described are unfavorable, public input may suggest additional options or different operations scenarios that would reduce the costs," said Gerald Kelso, manager of Reclamation's Upper Columbia Area Office. "The benefit/cost ratio could also be improved if further evaluation shows additional benefits," he added.

By entering into the "feasibility phase" of the study, the agencies can proceed with further federal and state environmental analyses, and open up public scoping activities. This phase includes implementing the Federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the State's Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) processes.

"The state recognizes the urgency to find viable water supply solutions for the Yakima basin," said Ecology central regional director Derek Sandison. "By moving forward with this study we hope to open up opportunities to get some real water on the ground." So far, the state has invested $5.35 million and the federal government has invested $5.8 million in the Yakima Basin Storage Study.

Further information, including the latest study document, Storage Study Team Technical Information and Hydrologic Analysis for Plan Formulation, is available from Reclamation at

Meetings will be held after January 1, 2007 to explain Storage Study progress and to gather information for the NEPA and SEPA scoping process. At the end of these processes, results of the analyses will be made available in a draft feasibility/environmental impact statement report.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

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