From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance. They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.
In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them. The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.
Here is lesson nine from Yakima River, Washington:
Revitalizing a Creek, Creating Jobs: Cowiche Creek Water Users Association fish screening and barrier removal project
In Washington’s Yakima Valley, revitalizing a creek is helping to revitalize an entire community with jobs and economic activity.
Local stakeholders joined forces to restore Cowiche Creek in response to the major decline of endangered steelhead. A combination of low instream flows, unscreened irrigation diversions and physical habitat changes reduced the number of steelhead returning to the creek.
Today, thanks to Trout Unlimited and funding from the Bonneville Power Administration through the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program (CBWTP), steelhead are now returning to Cowiche Creek and spawning naturally.
How It Worked
Trout Unlimited helped leverage federal funds through CBWTP and other sources to work with senior water rights holders to:
- Eliminate an unnecessary diversion dam;
- Renovate a diversion dam to increase its efficiency and allow fish passage;
- Consolidate creek irrigation diversions to provide an alternative water source and leave creek water instream; and
- Support partner efforts to remove approximately 1,400 feet of dikes and over 600 cubic yards of concrete to improve Cowiche Creek habitat.
What the Cowiche Creek Project Means for Water Users
This project helped irrigators and ranchers access and develop alternative water sources and use these sources more efficiently without affecting the productivity of their land. By connecting farmers and ranchers with alternative water sources, the project keeps creek water in Cowiche Creek and increases fish habitat without hurting agricultural productivity.
While the project is complete today, Trout Unlimited and the other partners hope to use Cowiche Creek as a model to demonstrate the success of collaborative efforts between partners in the Yakima River Basin and across the West.