Department of Ecology News Release - August 17, 2017

Yakima Basin water-rights case coming to a close

State’s largest stream adjudication will confirm 2,500 water rights


The historic Ecology v. James Acquavella, et al adjudication determining and confirming all surface water rights in the Yakima River Basin will soon be final, announces the Washington Department of Ecology.

After 40 years of court proceedings and deliberation, Yakima Superior Court Judge F. James Gavin entered a proposed final decree for the case on Aug. 10, 2017, including a draft schedule of rights set to be confirmed over the next eight months. Information is now being mailed to water right holders, beginning a review process after which the court will enter a final judgment concluding the case.

An open house is scheduled for 5-7 p.m., Sept. 6, 2017, at Ecology’s Central Regional Office, 1250 W. Alder St., Union Gap, where people can ask questions about their water rights and learn more about the process including deadlines for filing objections.

Under the threat of drought in 1977, Ecology filed a petition for an adjudication to determine the legality of all claims for use of surface water in the Yakima River Basin. The resulting court case began a thorough and binding review of all historical facts and evidence associated with each claim for rights to surface water use in the basin, including Kittitas, Yakima, Benton and parts of Klickitat counties.

Nearly 2,500 water rights in 31 subbasins (tributary watersheds) for individuals and about 30 major claimants, including irrigation districts, cities, federal projects (Reclamation and Forest Service) and the Yakama Indian Nation, have been meticulously substantiated.

“Now water users have clarity about their water rights and stability on what they can expect going forward,” said Ecology’s deputy director Polly Zehm. “This process brought parties to the courtroom to settle claims, and over the long years laid the foundation for a more collaborative approach to meet all our water needs through adoption of the Yakima Integrated Water Management Plan.”

The draft schedule of rights is available for review on our Ecology v Aquavella web page. Anyone may file written objections with the court until Nov. 15, 2017. A schedule for court review and responses to objections will follow as needed until April 14, 2018.

The adjudication settles old conflicts and reduces future conflicts, protects confirmed rights, and increases value to a water right holder. More information is available on Ecology’s website.

Contact information

Joye Redfield-Wilder
Communications manager