House approves Walla Walla water program

A Walla Walla water pilot program took another step towards reality on Thursday, receiving unanimous approval from the House. The proposal is the product of several differing parties coming together to find a water management system that will work for farms, fish, and especially people.

The late-Rep. Bill Grant was instrumental in the bills creation and would have been its sponsor this legislative session. Two other Walla Walla legislators are picking up the torch, though: Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Rep. Laura Grant, D-Walla Walla, Grant’s daughter.

"Our community prides itself in working collaboratively on different issues,” Walsh said. “This program provides a way for our community to administer water efficiently and work together toward a common goal: stewardship of our resources. The proposal adopted by the House last night moves that partnership forward to do more to protect water resources."

“Too often water has been something to fight over,” Grant said. “This project shows us that water is something we can come together on.”

The Walla Walla pilot program would allow the community to manage the Walla Walla River and watershed in a way that works for all parties, by allowing the creation of a water management partnership. House Bill 1580 would allow the partnership to create a water bank, and authorize voluntary, cooperative agreements that would enhance water flows in combination with more flexibility in water use.

“This bill brings together tribes, irrigators, the Department of Ecology, and urban water users, to name a few,” Grant said. “It creates a model that people across the nation will be watching.”

"We call this ‘flow from flexibility’ – because it gives our community opportunities to control the flow of water to users and to rivers,” Walsh said. “I am proud to be able to support this legislation – it is a tremendous tribute to a great man."

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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