S 1694: Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015

This bill amends title XII of P.L. 103-434, which established the Yakima River Basin Water Conservation Program to improve the reliability of water supplies for irrigation in the Yakima River Basin and to protect and enhance fish and wildlife resources, including wetlands. The bill expands the purposes of the original Program to include: (1) improving the resilience of the ecosystems, economies, and communities in the Yakima River Basin as they face drought, climate variability, and climate change; and (2) authorizing and implementing the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resources Management Plan as Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project.

The bill modifies the Yakima River Basin Water Conservation Program to require the Conservation Advisory Group to provide recommendations to advance the purposes and programs of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project. Additionally, the bill limits the funding by states and the federal government to 17.5% of the local share of the costs of the Conservation Program in exchange for the long-term use of conserved water.

The bill increases funding for the Yakima River Basin Water Conservation Program and related projects.

The bill grants the Department of the Interior the authority to make grants or enter into cooperative agreements to carry out Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project.

The bill: (1) expresses the intent of Congress that the Management Plan for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project shall be implemented in its entirety, in accordance with applicable laws; (2) provides for an initial, intermediate, and final development phase of the Management Plan; and (3) requires a progress report on the Management Plan within five years after enactment of this Act.

S 1694 is sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell. It was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on December 16, 2015.