Historic Breakthroughs on Water - Manastash Creek
As part of our ongoing Water for Washington campaign, WEC has engaged in negotiations since 2001 to restore Manastash Creek near Ellensburg. Thanks in large part to the efforts of late WEC board member John Arum (shown here in center with local Kittitas County farmers who worked with WEC), an agreement was signed which will lead to the restoration of the creek, as well as provide water needed by local farmers.
Water rights in the West have traditionally been a loaded issue – one where distrust often prevents any dialogue from taking place. The agreement at Manastash Creek, a tributary to the Yakima River, started off much the same way, with farmers, environmentalists, tribal staff, state agencies and others warily sitting down to discuss how to address harm to struggling steelhead from long-standing irrigation diversions. However, over time, the parties learned to respect one another and were able to build up trust. Through long hours of meetings, they hammered out problems and found common ground. Finally, after six years, all the parties gathered to sign a ground-breaking agreement.
An article in the Yakima Herald-Republic summed up the agreement. “What grew from those early, uncertain days is now seen as a model for resolving the complicated and contentious fish and irrigation issues that exist throughout the state and the region.”
The agreement will maintain the irrigation needs for local farmers while improving instream flow, screening irrigation diversions, and removing barriers to fish passage. In all, it will open up 30 miles of formerly inaccessible high-quality habitat in the Wenatchee National Forest. As climate change reduces the water available to Washingtonians, agreements like this one are crucial to protecting streams and fish as well as safeguarding working agricultural lands. Read background on the case in WEC's newsletter.
As part of our ongoing work on water with American Rivers and Washington Rivers Conservancy, WEC has produced a water pamphlet, “When the well runs dry: Water solutions for Washington.”