Manastash Creek is an important Yakima River tributary, which drains a 100-square mile watershed in Kittitas County lying west of Ellensburg, Washington. Approximately 30 miles of potential high-quality salmonid habitat remains in the upper portions of the watershed, which lie primarily within the Wenatchee National Forest.
On March 25, 1999, NMFS listed the Middle Columbia River Basin steelhead as "threatened," effective May 24, 1999. 64 Fed. Reg. 14,517. The Middle Columbia includes the Yakima River and its tributaries. On February 16, 2000, NMFS designated the Yakima River and its tributaries as critical habitat for Middle Columbia River steelhead. 65 Fed. Reg. 7779. In May 2000, the Manastash Ditch Water Users became the first of many private diverters in Kittitas County, to request financial and technical assistance from the KCCD to address fish screening and passage issues. In response to those requests, the KCCD performed surveys (both general informational surveys and professional topographic surveys) on five diversion structures on Manastash Creek.
This work continued through March of 2003 and involved numerous consultations with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) and NOAA Fisheries engineers. While the technical assistance was provided to the diverters, the KCCD and the Kittitas County Water Purveyors (KCWP) began searching for funds to construct and implement the screening and passage structures.
In February 2001, the Washington Environmental Council (WEC) sent the WDFW, and the largest private water users on Manastash Creek, the Kittitas Reclamation District (KRD) and the Westside Irrigating Company (Westside) a draft notice of intent to sue under Section 11(g) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g). The draft notice alleged that continued operation of the six irrigation diversions on Manastash Creek would result in an unlawful "take" of threatened steelhead under Section 9 of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1538(a). The WEC contended that prior to the advent of irrigated agriculture; Manastash Creek produced steelhead, coho and spring chinook salmon. WEC asserted the main factors limiting anadromous fish production in Manastash Creek were barriers to passage presented by four irrigation diversion dams, six associated unscreened diversions (Manastash, Jensen, Keach, Reed, Anderson and Barnes Road) which entrain juvenile fish, and the diversion of the entire stream flow during the summer/early fall irrigation season between stream miles 1.5 and 4.9. The draft notice was accompanied by a cover letter inviting the water users to work with WEC in a collaborative process which would protect both threatened fish and the future of irrigated agriculture in Kittitas County.
The parties met initially on March 1, 2001, and agreed to move forward with a collaborative process to address the issues raised in WEC's draft notice. These collaborative efforts proceeded and a relationship of cooperation and trust between the parties which, formed the Manastash Creek Restoration Project Steering Committee The Committee moved forward with the commitment to eliminate fish passage barriers, eliminate unscreened diversions and improve instream flows while keeping agriculture whole. After years of meetings and negotiations, The Manastash Creek Restoration Project has made great strides for both fish screening and passage and instream flow enhancement. To date, through water conservation projects under the KCCD’s BPA Capital contracts and through Trout Unlimited WWP acquisition projects, 18 cfs has been acquired in perpetuity for instream flow enhancement in Manastash Creek. This number has exceeded the initial 6 cfs goal offered as part of the Manastash Creek Restoration Project Instream Flow Implementation Plan. The water acquired and a partnership with the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Kittitas Reclamation District resulted in the 2014 being the first summer in decades that Manastash Creek flowed nearly all summer in the reach below the Reed Diversion.
Fish Screens and Fish Passage
The first fish screen and passage facility was planned for construction at the Barnes Road diversion in the winter of 2008/2009, however because of delays in land rights acquisition, the project was postponed. It was rebid in the summer and construction started in mid October 2009. The existing diversion structure has been modified to include a fish screen with an air burst cleaning system and a roughened fishway for fish passage. Construction is complete and the facility began delivering irrigation water in April 2010. Funding for this facility is provided by the original legislative appropriation for the Manastash Creek Restoration Project.
Construction of the largest fish screen facility, at the Manastash Water Ditch Association (MWDA) and Consolidated diversion, began in November 2009. Like the Barnes Road site, this facility includes a fish screen with an air burst cleaning system. Instead of a fish ladder, rock weirs were built in Manastash Creek to allow for fish passage. This project was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and was facilitated by HDR, the project’s engineering firm. Construction is also complete and the facility has been delivering irrigation water since April 2010.
Construction at the third and final fish screen facility was completed at the Keach-Jensen diversions April 2011. This site also included rock weirs for fish passage and an air burst cleaning system. This project was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and was also facilitated by HDR, the project’s engineering firm.
During the winter of 2013-2014, KCCD, through a Department of Ecology, Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Water Enhancement grants, was able to pipe 5,500’ of the Manastash Ditch from the MWDA Consolidated Diversion to Hanson Road and as part of the consolidation process, piped the Reed and Hatfield water from the MWDA Consolidated diversion to the water users. 1.9 cfs of MWDA winter stock water has trusted to the State’s Water Trust Program for instream flow in perpetuity for piping the MWDA ditch from the MWDA Consolidated diversion to Hanson Road.
The pipeline project scope changed as the US Bureau of Reclamation piped the Kittitas Reclamation District’s 13.8 Lateral as an early action item under the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. Not only did the US Bureau pipe one mile of the Consolidated pipeline as part of the original Manastash project but continued the Consolidated pipeline an additional 3,276 feet. With the Bureau constructing a portion of the Consolidated pipeline, KCCD was able to change the MWDA and Consolidated pipelines from gravity to pressure. Pressurized lines will allow for future on farm improvements and additional water savings on future projects.
Removal of the Reed Diversion
As a result of the Consolidation of Reed diversion to the MWDA Consolidated diversion and the construction of the MWDA and Consolidated pipelines, KCCD has completed the removal the old Reed diversion, the last fish passage barrier to upstream migration. The removal provides access to more than 20 miles of fish habitat. The project was completed in November 2016. See the press release here.
Monitoring Steelhead Presence
The KCCD was also able to purchase PIT tag detector materials for Manastash Creek with BPA funding. KCCD purchased the materials and has an agreement with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to operate and maintain. WDFW installed pit tag antennas near the Barnes Road facility in 2013. Since installation, the antennas have recorded thirteen wild adult steelhead in 2014 and four in 2015. The antennas recorded the fish entering and leaving the Creek; the WDFW fish biologist in charge of operating the antennas determined that the steelhead that entered the Creek were in long enough to have spawned. One of the thirteen steelhead was also radio tagged and was monitored traveling up Manastash Creek to the base of the Reed Diversion, which was the last large barrier blocking more than 20 miles of habitat, before turning around and returning to the Yakima River. After the Reed Diversion was removed in 2016, steelhead were detected at new site installed upstream of the construction sites at the mouth of Manastash Canyon confirming that passage had been restored. In addition to the adult steelhead, juveniles that were tagged during the removal of the Reed Diversion were detected at this upper site, also confirming upstream juvenile passage over passage structures (rock weirs) at the irrigation diversion sites.