Washington Water Trust

Working to restore our state's rivers and streams.

Teanaway River

AT A GLANCE
WHEREA tributary of the Yakima River
WHATWWT helps landowners adjust their water usage patterns to increase instream flows
WHOWWT in partnership with individual landowners, Bonneville Power Administration, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Washington Department of Ecology, Kittitas Conservation District, Yakama Nation and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
WHYTo improve habitat conditions for spring Chinook, bull trout and steelhead, as well as stream quality for Teanaway Valley landowners
WHENOngoing since 2002. The project involves multiple leases for up to 30 years.
Historically, the Teanaway River was known as one of the top producers of spring Chinook, steelhead and coho in the Yakima basin. Today, with predictions of decreasing snowpack and irrigation demands, the Teanaway struggles to supply enough water to overcome the low-flow barriers that limit migration, spawning and rearing of native anadromous fish. Another resident species,  bull trout, along with steelhead, are listed as threatened under Endangered Species Act and the primary factors limiting their production are low stream flows and high water temperatures.

Despite these conditions, recent studies indicate that the Teanaway River has some of the highest restoration potential in the Yakima Basin, with the capacity to double its productivity, given the right restoration activities.

In 2002, Washington Water Trust began looking for ways to improve stream flow conditions on the Teanaway River in support of fish migration, water quality and recreation. 

Working closely with the Kittitas Conservation District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and individual landowners, WWT found innovative ways to help reduce the amount of water needed for irrigation while simultaneously helping farmers. By changing points of diversion, implementing split-season leases, and adjusting irrigation methods, WWT has ensured water for Teanway summer flows, preventing the pooling and stranding of fish that otherwise occurs in dry summer months.

The Teanaway benefits from water put into trust from the North Fork confluence to the mouth of the river, over 14 miles of stream, to improve flows. Our water leases cumulatively return as much as 4 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the stream - a significant contribution especially in drought years! However, more work is needed. During the summer drought of 2005, flows fell as low as 6 cfs. 

WWT efforts are focused largely on late season water called  "split-season" water to help sustain the river during that critical low period from July - September while allowing for irrigated agriculture in the valley in the early season.

Improved stream flows hasten the repair of riparian areas by reconnecting side channels, reducing predation for juvenile fish, keeping temperatures cooler, and nourishing a more fish-friendly habitat. The mainstem, Middle, North, and West  Forks are all included on the Clean Water Act 303(d) impaired water quality list for temperature as well, which can be addressed, in part by enhancing flows. The Teanaway River has multiple stakeholders: the fish and wildlife relying on cool, abundant flows, the tribal culture that hopes for the return of an abundant fishery, the recreational community that paddles and fishes from its banks, and the residents that both swim in its current and water their farms.  WWT is pleased to see fish are now making their first returns from releases several years ago, and this continuing partnership will make sure there is water for them to come home to.