Tri-Cities – Yakima River Delta Enhancement Project & Yakima Delta Assessment

Yakima River Delta Enhancement Project:
Restoring salmon, improving water quality, and enhancing recreation

What’s Happening:
For the past several years, collaborative work has been done to improve fisheries, habitat and water quality in the Yakima Basin. Continuation of this work relies on getting salmon and steelhead past Bateman Island, which sits at the mouth of the Yakima Delta at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia rivers. A man-made causeway on the south side of the island completely blocks flows, leading to very warm water temperatures west of the island. The warm water provides ideal conditions for exotic species that prey on juvenile salmon in the spring, and makes it difficult for adult salmon to swim upstream in the summer. Elevated water temperatures also encourage algal blooms, pathogen growth, and encourage mosquitoes, degrading water quality. Beginning in 2016, the current Stakeholder partners joined forces to further develop a workable plan to address these issues and maintain and improve recreational opportunities.

By the Numbers:

1939-1940: Construction of the 550-ft long causeway between Bateman Island and what is now the City of Richland.

Zero: Number of current openings in the causeway to allow water flow and fish passage.

Billions: The estimated economic value of restored Yakima Basin salmon and steelhead fisheries.

2014: First public meetings held by Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group to engage the public and develop possible preferred restoration plan.

2016: 13 community presentations conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife share research results and develop a common vision for fisheries improvements, recreational opportunities, and continued marina operation.

December 2016: A Stakeholder group consisting of State and Federal natural resource agencies, Tribal interests, the City of Richland, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, and private recreational interests, met and agree to work together to achieve Delta improvements.

March 2017: Letter of Intent drafted and submitted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, acting as the project lead, to request U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding under its Section 1135 authority for environmental restoration and enhancement to further project assessment and implementation.

June 2017: A Technical Team was created to collaboratively develop a vision statement that reflects the diverse needs of the area including fisheries, area recreation and public and private marina operations.  Next steps will including a broader public process to develop a truly community-based project.

Desired Outcomes:

Community Access: Improved recreational opportunities and improved water quality in the Tri-Cities.

Marina and Boat Launch: Boat moorage and launch opportunities will be maintained.

Fisheries: Yakima Basin fisheries will be enhanced, especially near the mouth of the Yakima River, in the Tri-Cities, and points upstream.  New salmon fishing opportunities will potentially be created.

 

What’s Needed

Partnerships: Yakima River Delta Enhancement Project participants are working with Stakeholders and the community to develop a solution that allows flow around the island, improves water quality, provides recreational access and opportunities, and protects existing boat moorage and launch sites.

An aerial view of the complete barrier to water flow created by the causeway.

Additional technical information, including several years of environmental assessment, is available in a detailed report titled the Bateman Island Causeway Modification Conceptual Design Report. The executive summary is here.  For additional questions, contact merritt@midcolumbiafisheries.org or at (509) 840-5600.