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Columbia River Reservoir Sites ID'd for Study

by Peggy Steward
Capital Press, October 6, 2006

Off-channel storage called for in latest legislative session

Reservoir sites of the Columbia River mainstem storage options. State and federal agencies have pared a list of 11 potential Columbia River off-channel water storage sites to four sites for more study.

The Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have identified Hawk Creek in Lincoln County, Foster Creek in Douglas County and Sand Hollow and Crab Creek, both in Grant County, for further study to meet water needs in the Columbia River Basin. The four potential sites were announced Sept. 27.

The Legislature earlier this year approved a package that calls for new management strategies, more conservation and new water storage, Joye Redfield-Wilder, Department of Ecology spokesman in Yakima, said in a telephone interview. As part of the deal, lawmakers earmarked $200 million to develop new water supplies to help the economy and the environment.

"The Legislature has directed us to aggressively seek out storage opportunities on the Columbia River that will support our cities, industries, farmers and fish," Jay Manning, Department of Ecology director, said in a news release. It makes sense to store water when flows are high and make it available when flows are low and water is needed most, Manning said.

A December 2005 report commissioned by the Department of Ecology and BuRec identified 11 possible reservoir sites. Now the agencies have narrowed the field to four:

Each of the potential sites has an estimated capacity of at least 1 million acre feet and is above Priest Rapids Dam, which would allow each to be dovetailed into BuRec's Columbia Basin Project, Redfield-Wilder said.

"Site and location are important considerations," Manning said. "The higher upstream a reservoir can be located, the more versatile and cost-effective it will be."

A further report on the four sites is expected to be completed in March 2007.

The agencies are also looking at other projects including storage enhancement, smaller off-channel alternatives, aquifer recharge and in-channel improvements.

The proposed Black Rock Reservoir was not included in the report. Black Rock would pump water from the Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam, during times of high flows, to be stored in an off-stream reservoir about 25 miles east of Yakima. The water would be released for use by irrigators in the Yakima Basin Project, leaving Yakima River water instream for fish. Black Rock, as proposed, could hold about 1.3 million acre feet of water.

The absence of Black Rock from the new short list of storage sites shouldn't be construed as a comment about the project's feasibility, the Department of Ecology said on its website. Black Rock has a different purpose, comes under separate congressional authority and a study is already under way on the project, as well as other alternatives for the Yakima Basin, the department said.

The December 2005 report is at

Peggy Steward is based in Ellensburg, Wash.
Columbia River Reservoir Sites ID'd for Study
Capital Press, October 6, 2006

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