Compromise paves way for water legislation

Conservation, recreation, agricultural and municipal interests have come together on a plan to ensure the future water supply of the Yakima River Basin.

By:  Editorial Board
Source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

Compromise, once touted as an art in politics, has become too rare in Congress. 

Last week it made a welcome comeback as legislation was approved in the Senate that could ensure the future water supply in Eastern Washington’s Yakima River Basin. Earlier a different but similar bill was approved in the House. The two measures need to be reconciled.  

If it can be done, and it looks possible, that would great for the Pacific Northwest. 

The legislation aims to restore historic fish runs — including one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the lower 48 states — blocked for more than a century and to help prevent future droughts for farmers and communities in the Yakima River Basin, according to The Associated Press. 

The legislation  will protect one of the most important watersheds in the state, said Tom Tebb, director of the Office of Columbia River with the Washington Department of Ecology.

“The act will fund real projects to construct fish passage at reservoirs, improve stream flows throughout the watershed, and bolster water supplies for one of the country’s top agricultural regions,” Tebb said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced the bill last July, saying it represented compromise between conservation, recreation, agricultural and municipal interests. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, and Rep. Dave Riechert, R-Auburn, introduced the similar bill in the House.

Getting the various interests together — as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress — to give and take in coming up with an acceptable compromise was not easy, but it was necessary. 

“Farmers, fishermen, communities and conservationists in Washington state who have spent years forging a compromise to manage water supplies were rewarded this week when the long-awaited Senate energy bill passed with wide bipartisan approval,” wrote Elizabeth Shogren of High Country News, a publication that focus on natural resources in the West. 

Getting to this point has not been easy. And getting further won’t be any easier. Apparently the differences between the House and Senate will require more compromise. 

The end results, however, is well worth giving a little to gain a lot — starting with a future water supply for the region.