Feds say proposed Black Rock reservoir too costly
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says a massive reservoir proposed to improve water supplies in central Washington's drought-prone Yakima Valley would be too costly, a decision that potentially ends years of studies that have already cost $18 million.
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says a massive reservoir proposed to improve water supplies in central Washington's drought-prone Yakima Valley would be too costly, a decision that potentially ends years of studies that have already cost $18 million.
A final environmental impact statement released Friday evaluated the potential for the Black Rock reservoir, as well as two other projects that could provide more water for irrigators and municipalities and improve stream flows for fish.
But the bureau determined that all three projects would be too expensive and fail to meet all of the criteria necessary for major federal water resource projects, said Gerald Kelso, manager of the bureau's Upper Columbia Area Office in Yakima.
The bureau recommends pursuing none of the three alternatives, but says efforts will continue to improve water availability in the region.
"We are committed to working in collaboration with others to look for long-range solutions to future water supply needs in the Yakima basin," Kelso said in a statement.
The Yakima Valley is home to thousands of acres of hops, wine grapes, tree fruit and other crops, but many irrigators face water shortages during periods of extreme drought.
State and federal officials have been researching additional water storage in the basin — and the Columbia River basin, as well — in hopes of alleviating water rationing for irrigators during dry years, improving stream flows for threatened and endangered fish and providing water to meet demand from growing communities.
As proposed, the Black Rock project would have pumped water from the Columbia River to a 1.6 million acre-foot reservoir about 30 miles east of Yakima.
An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover 1 acre 1 foot deep, or about 325,850 gallons.
The project's cost was estimated at up to $7.7 billion, but the cost wasn't the project's only flaw.
According to a report released earlier this year, Black Rock would return just 16 cents for every dollar spent to build and operate it, down from 28 cents in a similar study two years ago.
That information followed another report, released in January, that showed the reservoir could seep so much it would significantly raise the water table at the neighboring Hanford nuclear reservation, increasing the risk of spreading radioactive and toxic contaminants to the Columbia River.
Longtime supporters of the proposal, who paid $18,000 in recent months in radio and TV commercials promoting it, said the economic analysis failed to consider significant recreational benefits and understated benefits to fish recovery. They also said efforts could be made to mitigate any seepage toward the Hanford nuclear site.
The latest environmental impact statement included mitigation proposals, but they weren't enough to overcome the project's other downfalls.
The bureau also found two other proposals didn't meet criteria adequately and were not economically justified.
Wymer Dam, about 15 miles north of Yakima in the Lmuma Creek Canyon, would have resulted in a reservoir that held 175,000 acre-feet of water. The third proposal included Wymer Dam plus an additional system to pump water.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.