JOINT RELEASE Public feedback sought on Yakima River delta habitat restoration study

Published Jan. 30, 2023

RICHLAND, WA -- In partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking for public feedback on a draft report studying proposed next steps to restore the Yakima River delta.

Located at the mouth of the Yakima delta, at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia rivers, Bateman Island has a human-made causeway on the south side of the island that completely blocks water flows. This leads to very warm water temperatures west of the island.

The warm water provides ideal conditions for non-native fish to prey on out-migrating young salmon in the spring and makes it difficult for adult salmon to swim upstream in the summer. Elevated water temperatures also encourage algal blooms and mosquitoes, degrading water quality.

Released today, the draft report looks at the ecological benefits or proposed options to restore the Yakima River delta and a tentatively selected plan to move forward. The report is available for public review through March 10.

“The Corps is excited to reach the milestone of public review for the draft feasibility report with integrated environmental assessment,” said Kat Herzog, Corps planner and project manager. “We look forward to hearing from the local community as we move forward with the study.”

“At the core of the project are our commitments to improve the ecosystem of the delta and to engage the public,” said Mike Livingston, WDFW South Central Region Director. “We recognize that there’s a broad community invested in the outcomes of this project, and we share their commitment to the long-term health of the Yakima River delta and a solution-oriented, community-based approach for what comes next.”

Members of the public can submit feedback via the website, by email, or at upcoming open houses, scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23, at 1943 Columbia Park Trail at the Reach Museum in Richland. The open house will include listening sessions with opportunities for attendees to share their feedback. More information is available on the website.

Public feedback will help to inform the development of a final report, which the Corps anticipates releasing in spring of 2023.

This public review is one piece of a broader environmental review process, commonly referred to as section 1135, that the Corps uses to address degraded ecological conditions. At the request of partners, the Corps is using the process to study various solutions to improve the ecological health of the Yakima River delta for fish, wildlife, and people.

This public review builds upon a history of strong public engagement, beginning as far back as 2016. The Corps and WDFW have engaged a suite of local, state, federal and tribal governments, nonprofit partners, and others in the project process.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

The USACE Walla Walla District Environmental Compliance office provides extremely broad support to all of the district’s civil works federal actions and programs in three functional areas: environmental sciences as well as compliance with federal biological compliance laws (Biological Resources Team) and general environmental compliance (Environmental Resources Team) laws.

Eryn Couch, WDFW

Release no. 23-008