News and announcements from the Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board
YBFWRB Board Meeting
The next Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 7 from 2-4 p.m. at our office located at 1200 Chesterly Drive, Suite 280 in Yakima. YBFWRB meetings are open to the public. RSVP to Heather Hadsel if you plan to attend.
Our Chair, Kittitas County Commissioner Obie O'Brien,
gets up close and personal with bull trout!
Introducing Ecology's Floodplain by Design Programby Alex Conley, Executive Director

Some of our best salmon recovery projects are really multi-benefits projects- projects that restore fish and wildlife habitat, and also reduce flood risks to local communities, protect vital infrastructure like highways and municipal water supplies, and create recreational opportunities. Most of these multi-benefit projects focused on reworking 20th century flood control infrastructure for the 21st century.

Too often we get trapped in “levee disease” where a hodge-podge of old levees and constrictions such as narrow bridge openings force the river to drop its sediment load, raising the river bed and forcing levees to be rebuilt ever higher. The result are increased flood risk and high maintenance costs. When old levees are breached or set back, and constrictions in the floodplain are removed, there is more room for floodwaters to spread out and loose their energy. That means less damage to roads and houses and businesses. It also means more room for a river to be a river, and develop the dynamic and diverse floodplain habitats our salmon, steelhead and lamprey runs have always depended on.

Both the Yakima County Flood Control Zone District and the new Flood Control Zone District for Kittitas County are focusing on developing these kinds of multi-benefit programs. They’ve been able to use their tax base to fund initial planning and coordination and get things rolling, but they rely on additional funding sources to get these big projects done on the ground. That funding is not always easy to find!

The funding source the Yakima Basin Fish & Wildlife Recovery Board works most closely with - the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) grant program- focuses specifically on the fish benefits of a project, and grants are not large enough to cover many of these big projects. 

Luckily, there is now a new player in town - the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Floodplain by Design Program. It was created by the legislature in 2013. While the initial focus was on projects in Puget Sound, the first round of funding provided $10.9 million for Statewide Floodplain Management and Control Grants. 5 of the 13 funded projects from the statewide pot are in the Yakima Basin, and these projects are going to construction as I write. 

The Department is now reviewing final proposals for 2015-2017 projects, and has requested $50 million of state funding to pay for them. Now it’s up to the legislature to decide how much funding to provide for the statewide Floodplain by Design Program. We’re hoping many of the 30 projects selected by Ecology- including the 6 proposals under review for the Yakima Basin- are funded in 2015.

With the Floodplain by Design Program, we’ve now got a complimentary statewide funding source that focuses on the flood risk and infrastructure protection parts of big multi-benefit projects. That’s not all. These projects are also highlighted in the Habitat Subcommittee’s list of priorities to be funded as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. The Department of Ecology is asking for $5 million in funding for the Habitat Subcommittee projects in the next biennium. By combining SRFB funding, Floodplain by Design funding, the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan and other sources, proponents are able to fund big multiple-benefit projects none of them could support on their own.

Together, all of these sources can turn plans for big multi-benefit projects into realities. Perhaps then, when we have our next big flood, the newspaper headlines will be about all the benefits to fish habitat, and the insurance adjusters will wonder why they’re not getting lots of calls about flood damage!
Yakima Basin Lead Entity Citizens Committee
When we talk about Salmon Recovery in the Yakima Basin, you may hear us refer to the “Washington Way.” When the Endangered Species Act went into effect in 1999, Washington State had a choice about how to address recovery. We could let the Feds take a top-down approach, or we could work with NOAA Fisheries to enable locally-based groups to write their own local recovery plans for ESA-listed species. Washington State chose the second option and has created an unprecedented, grassroots effort that sustains one of the most complex and successful fish and wildlife recovery efforts in the nation. 

The 25 Lead Entities around the state are a key part of the Washington Way. Lead Entities bring together Tribes, federal and state agencies, local governments, citizens, non-profits, business, and technical experts to recommend projects for Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) funding. The Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board functions as the Lead Entity for the Yakima Basin, one of the largest lead entity areas in the state. Each year, the SRFB awards about 1.2 million to projects solicited, reviewed and recommended by our Lead Entity. This local process ensures that SRFB projects are part of a scientifically sound salmon recovery strategy and are supported by local communities.

Our Citizens Committee plays a pivotal role in our local grant review process. It is comprised of a diverse and committed group of volunteers including farmers, attorneys, retired engineers and agency officials, business owners, and writers. Due to this diversity, the Citizens Committee members often are the best judges of the community’s social, cultural, and economic values. Their review ensures that projects have the community support they need to succeed. There are sixteen members; four each from Kittitas, Yakima, and Benton Counties and the Yakama Nation. Participants represent local governments, conservation districts, tribes, environmental groups, business interests, landowners, citizens, volunteer groups, regional fish enhancement groups, and others. 

Citizens Committee Member Highlight: Jerry Rhodes
This month we would like to highlight one of our dedicated volunteers: Jerry Rhoads from Benton City, WA. Jerry retired from a 40-year career as a nuclear power plant engineer and safety specialist. He served on numerous national committees advising Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on nuclear power regulation and safety issues. His experience also includes participating in the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency working group on nuclear power plant aging and representing US nuclear utilities in NRC funded research.  Jerry is the founder and current CEO of KC HELP, a nonprofit corporation providing durable medical equipment (hospital beds, wheel chairs, etc.) to people without insurance or who are unable to afford to rent the equipment in the greater Tri-Cities and Wenatchee area.  Fortunately for us, Jerry also has extensive experience as a volunteer Board member  serving as a director of the Tri Cities Chaplaincy and Hospice board of Directors and he is passionate about using a collaborative process for species recovery. He is a retired fishing guide and river boat captain with over 20 years’ experience fishing for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and walleye on the Columbia and its tributaries. His passion for fishing led him to become a charter member of the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Recreational Angler Board of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Jerry has served on our Citizens Committee for two years and has shown incredible dedication to our grant review process, always emphasizing the need to ensure the integrity and accountability of our process. We are very lucky to have Jerry’s participation in our Citizens Committee!
Yakima Basin in the News

9/29/14 - New efforts aim to help bull trout
9/28/14 - Wastewater plan improves Yakima River's flow

9/25/14 - Comments sought on plan to increase Cle Elum Reservoir
9/12/14 - Fall chinook short of forecast for season
9/16/14 - Water temperature plan comment period extended
9/26/14 - Comment sought on plan to increase Cle Elum reservoir
View more News >>

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