Black Rock Backers Talking to TRIDECby Andrew Sirocchi
Tri-City Herald, August 6, 2007
The Yakima Basin Storage Alliance is looking to the Tri-Cities to build more support for the Black Rock reservoir by asking TRIDEC to help promote the proposed multi-billion-dollar project.
Sid Morrison, chairman of the alliance, said the proposed project has not generated as much enthusiasm in the Tri-Cities as the group hoped, so it is aiming to take its message to the people more directly.
"We're reaching farther and farther into the Tri-Cities because this is so important in your area, but there's so much going on that the Black Rock project hasn't really taken for a lot of folks."
As proposed, Black Rock would cost about $4.3 billion to build and hold 1.3 million acre-feet of water -- enough to supply three Yakima Valley irrigation districts.
TRIDEC President Carl Adrian said his group -- which has supported the Black Rock project -- has been asked to help sponsor a Tri-City conference on the proposal.
He said TRIDEC also was asked to make Black Rock a topic at the group's upcoming information luncheons and to help the alliance define and deliver a public campaign.
"My response is, sure, but we need to talk about the details," Adrian said.
"We can increase awareness in the Tri-Cities about the needs and the benefits," he said. "Whether we can create excitement, I don't know, but certainly we can make the appropriate interests in the Tri-Cities better aware."
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimates the reservoir could provide $86.6 million in benefits for agriculture over the next century, but the association projects the value at $930 million.
The difference in part is because the association expects droughts to become more common, which climate change scientists have suggested will happen if precipitation increasingly falls as rain not snow.
For Yakima Valley farmers, the proposal provides an alternative to the only source of water, but in the Tri-Cities, only a portion of the agriculture is irrigated with Yakima River water.
Adrian and Morrison said that could be diverting the region's focus and may be one reason why Black Rock hasn't gained more support among Tri-Citians.
Morrison said the reservoir's construction would offer benefits to the Tri-Cities, requiring a construction labor estimated at about 2,000 people.
In addition, the Tri-Cities also stands to benefit from the envisioned recreational opportunities.
Morrison said the creation of 10 square miles of water for recreation and the integration of wind-generated power represent billions of dollars in value. Morrison, who also is the chairman of the Energy Northwest board, believes construction of the reservoir would lead to $2.9 billion in residential and resort development over 20 years.
Finally, he said the Tri-Cities would stand to gain significantly from any project that would relieve water demands on the Yakima River, giving the river a chance to rebuild its historic runs of salmon.
"We're spending $640 million a year in the basin to regenerate salmon resources -- 30 percent of everybody's power bill is for salmon regeneration" Morrison said. "And yet, the way the (endangered species act) requires it to be spent is probably not the best buy."
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