ABOUT THE YAKIMA VALLEY
The Yakima Valley is one of the most diversified and productive agricultural areas of the world. The valley is known worldwide for production of apples and hops and is a major producer of cherries, soft fruits and pears. Its wine grapes support over 700 wineries, and it also supports a huge dairy industry that boasts some of the highest milk production in the world. Plus, the region specializes in timothy hay. Agricultural exports from the Yakima River Basin are a major contributor to the State economy.
The Yakima River has historically supported large runs of Salmon, with estimated runs of 300,000 to 960,000 fish per year in the 1880s. These fish runs have sustained the culture and economy of the Yakama Nation, which holds Treaty Rights to maintain and harvest salmon runs. These runs have declined drastically, and three salmon species were eliminated from the basin – Sockeye, summer Chinook, and Coho. Many factors contributed to the declines including blockage of fish runs by construction of impassible storage and diversion dams, dewatering of tributary streams, alteration of instream flows by irrigation operations, habitat degradation and loss of floodplain function by construction of roads, dikes, and other impediments.
The Yakima River Basin is affected by a variety of water problems that impact fish, agriculture, and municipal and domestic water supplies. Water-short years have occurred an average of once every four years over the last 20 years, causing significant economic losses.