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Port commissioners ink economic study deal for Black Rock

New life was breathed into the Black Rock Reservoir proposal today when Port of Sunnyside commissioners inked an agreement with officials from the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance.

Negotiations began nearly a year ago for an interlocal agreement to research the possible economic benefits of Black Rock as a recreational site.

That partnership has since unraveled as Benton County commissioners decided to not pursue the agreement and Yakima County commissioners have tabled discussion on Black Rock indefinitely.

Proposed for a site about 30 minutes from Sunnyside, Black Rock is seen by the Bureau of Reclamation as a possible new source for water.

The port and storage alliance also see Black Rock's estimated 30 miles of beaches as a possible economic boost from water recreation and the potential of a master planned resort.

In today's agreement, Port commissioners pledged $25,000 towards a $50,000 feasibility study to research Black Rock's economic impacts.

Charlie de La Chappelle of the Yakima Basin Storage Alliance said the search would begin right away for a firm to conduct the study. He said he hopes to have the study's results within six months.

The Port of Sunnyside is the first agency to sign a contract with the storage alliance regarding the economic feasibility of Black Rock, which would draw water storage from the Columbia River.

Port Commissioner Jeff Matson said the goal of the survey is "to help build the case" with Bureau of Reclamation officials that Black Rock can be more than a water storage site.

"I think it's time to move forward so people can see the potential of Black Rock," said Port Commission President Arnold Martin.

He noted that if Black Rock becomes operational it could provide all the irrigation water for the Roza and Sunnyside Irrigation Districts.

And don't forget the benefit it could provide to Yakima and Benton counties, noted Port Commissioner St. Claire Woodworth.

"We don't want to exclude anyone," he said. "Our message is join us."

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