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WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY COMPLETES TRIBUTARY REVIEW, RESUMES PROCESSING WATER RIGHTS

WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY COMPLETES TRIBUTARY REVIEW,
 RESUMES PROCESSING WATER RIGHTS
 OLYMPIA, Wash., May 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Following an intensive, month-long review of salmon runs and instream flows in about 200 streams, the Washington State Department of Ecology said that today it resumed making decision on water right applications on tributaries to the Columbia and Snake rivers. Based on the review, Ecology will conduct studies and take other measures to protect flows for declining anadromous fish runs on 13 streams in eastern Washington.
 Ecology began the review after Snake River sockeye salmon was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, two additional Snake River salmon runs have been listed as threatened under the Act.
 "This review and the actions we are taking as a result show that Washington is serious about its responsibilities to assist in protecting vital salmon habitat in this state. By doing our job, we hope federal actions affecting these tributaries in Washington won't be needed," said Ecology Director Chuck Clarke.
 The review covered tributaries to the Snake River and Columbia River between Bonneville and Chief Joseph dams that are accessible to anadromous fish. Clarke said the results underscored the fact that there isn't enough water in many eastern Washington streams to meet the increasing demand for new water rights.
 "On most of the tributaries we reviewed, new water rights currently cannot be issued or can only be issued with conditions. Many of the restrictions are there to protect senior water users," he said.
 In the Yakima Basin, 66 streams were identified where applications are not being processed while the courts determine the validity of existing claims. Fifty-seven streams were identified in remote areas with little or no development pressure. Ecology will establish instream flow protection as needed for these isolated streams. In the remaining tributaries, minimum instream flows have been established or the streams are closed during low-flow periods to protect senior water rights and instream flows.
 "The Endangered Species Act added a sense of urgency to the state's water supply problems. But regardless of the Act, we need to figure out how we will meet future water needs while preserving important instream resources," said Clarke. "This is one of Ecology's responsibilities under state law," he added.
 The 13 tributaries chosen for further action are located in southeastern Washington and Chelan County. They are important habitat for anadromous fish and either have inadequate instream flows or lack any protection for fish.
 Applications for water rights on all of the high-priority streams filed before April 24, 1992, except for the Tucannon River, will be processed under existing rules and policies. Processing a water right doesn't necessarily mean it will be approved as submitted, Clarke noted, because Ecology is obligated to protect senior water users and instream resources. An application pending for the Tucannon River, where extensive work is underway to improve habitat for Snake River chinook salmon, will be processed after an instream flow study is completed.
 Applications for the 13 streams filed on or after April 24 will be processed based on the results of instream flow studies and other reviews scheduled for later this year.
 Field studies will be conducted this summer on 10 of the 13 priority streams. The results will be used to establish minimum instream flows. Streams that will be studied are:
 -- Asotin Creek and the Tucannon River, tributaries to the Snake River; and North Fork Asotin Creek, South Fork Asotin Creek and Charlie Creek, tributaries to Asotin Creek.
 -- Entiat River, a tributary to the Columbia River north of Wenatchee; and Tillicum Creek and Mad River, tributaries to the Entiat River.
 -- Nason Creek and Chiwawa River, tributaries to the Wenatchee River.
 Ecology will evaluate water availability in three other tributaries and modify existing protection measures, if needed. These streams are the Walla Walla River, a tributary to the Columbia River; the Touchet River, a tributary to the Walla Walla River; and Icicle Creek, a tributary to the Wenatchee River.
 -0- 5/8/92
 /CONTACT: Ken Slattery, 206-459-6114, or Renee Guillierie, 206-438-7761, both of the Washington State Department of Ecology/ CO: Washington State Department of Ecology ST: Washington IN: SU:


SC-LM -- SE001 -- 8216 05/08/92 16:00 EDT
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Date:May 8, 1992
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