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New program could mean more money for Yakima Basin projects

By Kate Prengaman
Yakima Herald

YAKIMA, Wash. — Supporters of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan are excited about a new potential funding source for local conservation projects.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the creation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which plans to invest $1.2 billion over five years in local projects on private lands, including water conservation, flood prevention and habitat restoration.

The Columbia River Basin is one of eight critical areas designated for additional funding from the program, but in total, the eight areas represent about three-quarters of the country.

Although regions around the country will be competing for the money, the Yakima Basin should be highly competitive, Lisa Pelly of Trout Unlimited said at the Integrated Plan committee at a Wednesday meeting.

That’s because the program is focused on funding large, integrated projects with lots of partner organizations and matching money available, which is exactly what the Integrated Plan has to offer.

The specific goal of the Columbia Basin Critical Conservation Area is improving management of water quantity and quality to benefit salmon recovery, which aligns well with the goals of the Integrated Plan.

Funding proposals are due in July, so Pelly and other committee members are going to work on selecting pieces of the plan that would be the best fit for funding from this program.

Urban Eberhart, a Kittitas County grower and member of the Integrated Plan committee, said this new program could be a big deal for the Yakima Basin. He also commended the committee’s work to explain the benefits of the plan to the funding agencies in Washington D.C.

“The secretary (of the USDA) picked this basin because of the work this group has done the past five years,” Eberhart said.

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