The Yakima Basin is part of the larger Columbia Basin, and the Yakima Basin Fish & Wildlife Recovery Board (YBFWRB) and its partners participate actively in broader discussions about fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin. The YBFWRB also is integrated into the State of Washington’s salmon recovery programs, and works with the federal Bureau of Reclamation on issues related to Reclamation’s Yakima Project, which supplies irrigation water to much of the area’s agriculture.

Fisheries Recovery Programs in the Columbia Basin

The federal Columbia River Power System supplies electricity to the Northwest and beyond. The Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act of 1980 and the federal Endangered Species Act require federal agencies to protect and restore the fish runs impacted by development of federal dams on the Columbia and its tributaries. Information on federal efforts to protect and restore salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia Basin can be found on the federal Salmon Recovery website. The Columbia Basin Bulletin provides an excellent source of news of Columbia Basin water, fish and wildlife.

As part of the mitigation for federal projects on the Columbia River, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) provides funding to the Yakama Nation, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and other local partners to restore habitat and fish runs in the Yakima Basin. These programs fund the hatchery programs for Chinook and coho salmon, associated research and monitoring, fish screen installation and maintenance, and habitat restoration projects. The Yakima Subbasin Plan, written by the YBFWRB, is meant to guide BPA investments in the Yakima Basin. Information about the work the BPA Fish & Wildlife Program funds can be found on the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program website.

River Valley Drivdahl

Yakima River
Photo Credit:  C. Drivdahl

Deep Creek Falls - Jim Cummins

Deep Creek Falls
Photo Credit: Jim Cummins

State of Washington Salmon Recovery Programs

The YBFWRB also works closely with the State of Washington. The state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) oversees the Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO) grant program for salmon recovery projects. This program is funded by a combination of federal funds (from the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund) and state funds, and the YBFWRB plays a central role in distributing these funds in the Yakima Basin. See our Grant Program page.

The YBFWRB and other regional organizations around the state work in partnership Washington Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office (GSRO) to write regional recovery plans, implement the actions they call for, and report on progress towards goals. The GSRO promotes the “Washington Way.” in which local and tribal partners work with state and federal agencies to develop collaborative solutions to restore the state’s at-risk fish species.

Water Management in the Yakima Basin

The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s Yakima Project runs the 5 major reservoirs in the Yakima Basin’s headwaters and the diversions that provide water to most of the major irrigation districts in the basin. The Bureau strives to balance the needs of instream flows and fish with its obligation to deliver water to water users. The Bureau’s Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) was created to mitigate for the impacts of the Yakima Project on instream flows and fish runs. YRBWEP funds irrigation efficiency projects and implements habitat protection and restoration projects. Saved water is split between instream flow and the irrigation districts completing conservation projects.

The Washington State Department of Ecology administers water rights in the Yakima Basin and works to protect and improve water quality. Ecology runs programs that monitor flow and water quality conditions, set and enforce water quality standards, help water users reduce water use, and help develop plans to improve water management.

River Fishing Drivdahl

River Fishing
Photo Credit: C. Drivdahl

Fisheries Management

Recreational fisheries in the Yakima Basin and the Columbia River are managed by the WDFW. WDFW, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the Yakama Nation and other tribes work together to manage mainstem Columbia tribal and commercial fisheries and work with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries to assure that they do no negatively affect listed species. The YBFWRB is not involved in managing fisheries.

Regulatory Programs

The YBFWRB has no regulatory authority, and promotes voluntary conservation projects and programs. Many other entities do manage regulatory programs; WDFW’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program, the Department of Natural Resource’s Forest Practices program, US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and Department of Ecology Clean Water Act programs, and local county and city critical area and shoreline ordinances all exist to protect aquatic habitats. NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish & Wildlife Service run regulatory programs specifically focused on protecting species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. For an overview of permitting programs and when they apply, see the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance’s Environmental Permitting site.

Yakima River Canyon

Yakima River Canyon