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Black Rock Reservoir

Project organizers have $6 million in hand Grassroots support still sought

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With $6 million in hand, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has begun the necessary feasibility study on the Black Rock Reservoir project, said Chuck Klarich of the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance. Meeting with Yakima Valley Conference of Governments leaders, Klarich and other Alliance members presented a progress report on the $8 billion water storage project proposed for construction north of Sunnyside.

Being within shouting distance of having the full $10 million needed to complete the feasibility studying for a monstrous water storage project, Black Rock Reservoir promoters are again seeking the support of local leaders and growers.

The Yakima River Basin Storage Alliance is seeking the continued vocal and financial support of area residents in promoting the 10-mile wide Black Rock Reservoir, according to former Yakima County Commissioner Chuck Klarich. To date, more than $300,000 has been donated locally to the cause in the past three years, Klarich said.

He said $6.3 million has been allocated by the state and federal governments for the reservoir feasibility project, which is expected to double the region's water storage capacity.

Speaking Wednesday night to Yakima Valley Conference of Governments (YVCOG) members, city mayors and councilmen, Klarich thanked the leaders for their past support of the giant reservoir being proposed north of Sunnyside in the Black Rock Canyon.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is moving ahead with the reservoir feasibility study of the canyon area, Klarich told the YVCOG membership.

The group, meeting at El Valle Restaurant in Sunnyside, learned that the reservoir project has also been approved as a part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's annual budget, bringing future funding of the project closer to reality.

But all of that positive activity has only been made possible because of the support of local growers, city leaders and the determination of the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance, said long-time storage advocate Tom Carpenter of Granger. Carpenter said in order to have the project come to fruition, the communities from Snoqualmie Pass to the Tri-Cities need to continue to lobby for the project.

"This has to continue to be a people-driven project," he said.

"I believe people do understand the need for additional water storage infrastructure such as this reservoir," he said, noting the last new water storage facility added to the current 100-year-old water storage system was completed in 1933 in the Cascade Mountains.

"It's time for us to provide adequate water for the next 100 years," he said.

Carpenter reminded the YVCOG members that the recent back-to-back droughts cost the region $250 million in the farm economy and more than $750 million to the surrounding communities' economy.

"The Black Rock project is good for the agricultural region and it's good for the environment," he said, saying salmon recovery and preservation of water and streams are a major part of the overall project.

"It (the reservoir project) is also good for the economy," said Rocky Marshall, the newest member of the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance.

Marshall, a spokesman for the Carpenters' Union in Yakima, said the Washington State Labor Council is now actively lobbying for additional funding toward the completion of the Black Rock Reservoir.

"The reason for our support? Jobs," Marshall told the YVCOG gathering.

"We're talking about more than 2,000 new construction jobs during the five year-plus period it is expected to take to complete building the $8 billion reservoir," he said,

"That's more than $1.8 billion in construction jobs alone," he said.

The increase in business to the area beyond the construction jobs also includes ancillary jobs, such as future recreational opportunities, which will bring additional millions of dollars to the region, he said.

"It's time to set aside all political differences and spend all our time promoting a project which will benefit the whole area," Marshall said.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com

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