Sometimes you can be too close to something to realize how big that something is.
That may or may not be the case with the Teanaway land sale being celebrated today with an event starting at 2 p.m. at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange on Ballard Hill Road.
The state has purchased 50,000 acres in the Teanaway from American Forest Land Company for $99.3 million The purchase in itself is big — the single largest by the state of rural lands in more than 45 years.
But as big as it is, it is part of something even bigger — the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.
The water plan is huge — roughly $4.2 billion when or if all the components are completed.
It is big because it satisfies multiple needs and concerns — environmentalists, irrigators, fish and wildlife.
The plan originates with the needs of our region, but encompasses much more. A Kittitas County-centric view would emphasize improved and enhanced water supplies. This region is both agriculture-dependent and drought-vulnerable. The need to address water supply has been long running, but attempts to address it always have been stalled.
The reality is we may need more water supply, but we cannot finance that project locally. Over the years our local people have realized that and started to build the relationships needed to bring other people, agencies and organizations on board.
There is a need for water supply, but there is also a need to restore fish runs and enhance fish habitat. Irrigators and fish folks can find themselves at odds, but they also can find ways to help each other. In the integrated plan they find ways to help each other.
There are habitat needs not just in the water, but on the land. None of these elements exist in a vacuum.
The end result is a plan that either meets a lot of needs or buys different groups off, depending on your point of view.
As people in this county and region know, this is the only way a plan of this nature goes forward. We have an extensive history of disagreeing and not resolving issues revolving around water.
It is certainly possible that this plan will not be implemented, at least not in its entirety. We all know the easiest thing to do is to do nothing. We see that on all levels of government. Our federal government is mired in an “I’ll never compromise” showdown of epic proportions at this very moment.
As the integrated plan rises beyond people with a direct stake in its success, it becomes easier for foes to take ideological stances without feeling any repercussions.
From our purely parochial viewpoint, the water needs have to be addressed. People can debate global climate change all they want, but that does not free us of the responsibility to plan for a climate of more rain and less winter snowpack. We already have water needs. Any change that further shortens the supply in the summer exacerbates the problem to the point where is cripples the economy.
In a plan where everyone sees something they like, everyone can also see something they don’t like, we have to choose to move forward. The integrated plan is our best opportunity to do so.
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