News Release Archive

Reclamation Releases Final Reports on Yakima River Basin Storage Study

Media Contact: John Redding, (208) 378-5212, 12/19/2008 17:03
David Kaumheimer, (509) 575-5848 ext. 232,

For Release: December 19, 2008

The Bureau of Reclamation has completed the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study Final Planning Report/Environmental Impact Statement and is distributing it to the public in anticipation of its formal filing with the US Environmental Protection Agency on December 19.

The purpose of the storage study is to develop and evaluate alternatives that could create additional water storage for the Yakima River basin and assess their potential to improve anadromous fish habitat, enhance the reliability of irrigation water supplies during dry years, and provide water to meet future municipal water demands.

In the Final PR/EIS, Reclamation identifies and evaluates four alternatives - three joint alternatives and the No Action alternative. The four alternatives are: " No Action " Black Rock " Wymer Dam and Reservoir " Wymer Dam Plus Yakima River Pump Exchange

Reclamation selected the No Action alternative as the preferred alternative because the evaluation revealed that each joint alternative: " Required significant investment of federal funds ($1 billion to $7.7 billion) plus millions of dollars in annual operating costs " Did not provide positive benefit-cost ratios required to be considered economically justified " Accrued natural resource benefits, for anadromous fish, in varying degrees " Met the municipal water supply goal " Did not have acceptability by the community at large as a stand-alone approach to meeting the Storage Study goals " Did not adequately meet the four criteria, completeness, effectiveness, efficiency, and acceptability, used to evaluate federal water resource projects

Only the Black Rock alternative consistently met the irrigation water goal. "None of the alternatives adequately met the criteria or were economically justified. Additionally, they could not provide adequate fishery benefits to be considered the preferred alternative," said Gerald Kelso, manager of Reclamation's Upper Columbia Area Office.

Normally, following publication of a Final EIS, Reclamation would not make a decision on how to proceed for at least 30 days; however, since this Final PR/EIS contains new information about the Black Rock Alternative seepage mitigation features, there will be a 45-day comment period for the Final PR/EIS. Responses to these comments will be included in a record of decision, anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2009.

The Draft PR/EIS, released last January, was done in conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology. Based on comments received at that time, Ecology decided to forgo the joint environmental process and prepared and recently released a supplemental Draft EIS which assesses a broader range of actions. As a consequence, the non-storage alternatives in the Draft PR/EIS have been deleted from the Final PR/EIS and will be addressed in Ecology's State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Final EIS expected to be released in March 2009.

"As Reclamation completes the Final PR/EIS, we are committed to working in collaboration with others to look for long-range solutions to future water supply needs in the Yakima basin," said Kelso.

The public review and comment period will end on February 3, 2009. Comments may be submitted electronically or by regular mail.

Questions about the Final PR/EIS can be addressed to Mr. David Kaumheimer, Environmental Program Manager. Phone: (509) 575-5848 ext. 232; Fax: (509) 454-5650. TTY users may dial 711 to obtain a toll free TTY relay. Or Email:

Copies of the document have been mailed to parties who have requested one, as well as area Tribes and appropriate local, state, and federal government agencies. In addition, Reclamation offices and local libraries will have copies available for viewing. Copies of the report are available by phoning (509) 575-5848 ext. 612, or it can be viewed online at:

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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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