The Watershed Planning Act provides a process to allow citizens in a watershed to join together to assess the status of the water resources in their watershed and determine how best to manage them. The plans must balance competing resource demands. They are required to address water quantity by undertaking an assessment of water supply and use within the watershed. This includes recommending long term strategies to provide water in sufficient quantities to satisfy minimum instream flows and to provide water for future out-of-stream needs. Optional elements that may be addressed in the plan include instream flow, water quality, and habitat.
Watershed planning and associated state funding is conducted in 4 phases:
- Phase 1 – Organizational Phase – Up to $50,000 per WRIA or up to $75,000 for multi-WRIA planning units.
- Phase 2 – Assessment Phase – Up to $200,000 for each WRIA in the management area to fund watershed assessments after the organizational phase is completed.
- Phase 3 – Planning Phase – Up to $250,000 for each WRIA in the management area for watershed plan development, planning unit approval and county board adoption.
- Phase 4 – Implementation Phase – Up to $100,000 per WRIA for the first three years of implementation activity, and then up to $50,000 per WRIA for the fourth and fifth years of implementation. A 10% local match is required for all five years. For management areas including more than one WRIA, up to $25,000 may be granted for the first three years then up to $12,500 may be granted for years four and five for each additional WRIA.
Supplemental funding is also available for up to $100,000 for each of three optional assessment elements: instream flow, water quality, and multipurpose water storage. Watershed plans are due 4 years from when a planning unit draws upon Phase 2 funding.
Development and implementation of watershed plans can be found here. Elements of a plan include: water quantity (required), water quality (optional), and habitat (optional).
The 2007 Legislature split the Wind-White Salmon watershed into two sub-basins for continued planning and implementation purposes. The White Salmon sub-basin (WRIA 29b) planning group anticipated organizing in early 2009. Start-up watershed planning activities are currently on hold due to county planning staff capacity issues and the state’s current budget shortfall, which affects watershed planning pass-through grant fund balances. Under normal circumstances, a completed plan would have been expected about 2012 or 2013. Information on WRIA 29b can be found here.
The WRIA 29b water planning process should be restarted to develop a watershed plan. The plan should include instream flows in tributary streams to protect water quantity and quality and aquatic habitat. Instream flows must be sufficient to provide habitat, including spawning, for returning salmonids some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed Husum/BZ Sub-Area Plan does not address yet to be determined instream flow requirements, which are also claimed by the Yakama Nation: “The YN has an unqualified Treaty fishing right and a Treaty water right in all streams flowing through its Ceded Area (which includes the White Salmon sub-basin) for flows adequate to support fish and other aquatic life; this is senior to all other water rights.” Completion of WRIA 29b is critical to allocation of water rights by Department of Ecology, including instream flow.
WRIA 29 History. WRIA 29 was intended to establish rules for management of the White Salmon and Little White Salmon river watersheds. Members representing the Little White Salmon came to an agreement while those from the big White Salmon did not. Wil Keyser, former White Salmon Public Works Director called the WRIA 29 a ‘disaster and a disgrace.’