Lining the way to fish recovery

Photo: Yakima River/Guenther Media

How do you find extra water for farmers and fish? In Washington, it requires lots of heavy equiment.Historically, Kittitas Reclamation District (KRD) in Ellensburg, Washington has needed the full capacity of its canals to deliver irrigation water to its Kittitas County farmers. As water moved through KRD’s system a portion was lost due to leaky earthen canal sections, in some places up to one acre-foot (AF) of water for every five feet of canal. Through Yakima Basin Integrated Plan partnerships, collaboration, state and federal funding partners and TU’s help, KRD is now conserving significant water in its irrigation canal by lining and piping leaking canal sections. KRD has agreed to use the excess canal capacity to move water through its canals and enhance flows in eight tributaries that are crossed by the canal. Many upper Yakima River tributaries are flow limited which limits the habitat available to ESA listed steelhead, salmon, and trout. This is proving to be an extremely cost effective means of flow restoration while simultaneously improving water delivery to over 2,800 irrigators.

In 2017, KRD put up to 50 cfs into seven tributaries in the Upper Kittitas Basin as some of the tributaries started to go dry because of irrigation diversions and climate change. TU, KRD and our partners like NFWF are using good science and real time data on an annual basis to decide what tributaries need the water and at what time of the season.

Photo: Prepping a canal

Photo: Construction of canal

Photo: Concrete pour

Photo: Water being delivered to Big Creek from water savings in lined canals

Photos courtesy Guenther Media

By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…