Washington Water Trust

Working to restore our state's rivers and streams.

Touchet River

AT A GLANCE
WHERETouchet River is a tributary to the Walla Walla River
WHATThe Touchet River project marks the largest purchase of water in the Walla Walla Basin to permanently restore flows benefitting 31 miles of the Touchet River
WHOWWT partnered with five different private landowners plus the Department of Ecology, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Bonneville Power and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
WHYTo permanently protect 1,100 acre feet of water benefitting up to 31 miles of river habitat for salmon, bull trout, steelhead and other wildlife while keeping agricultural lands in production
WHENOngoing since 2005
Since 2005, Washington Water Trust has been working cooperatively with water right holders in the Touchet River Valley in the Walla Walla Basin. 

A combination of water right leases and purchases accomplished instream flow restoration of 1,100 acre feet annually, and 6.2 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the spring and summer, and 8.65 cfs in the fall and winter water instream for the 2012 irrigation season. All of these landowners continue to grow dryland wheat on land that was formerly irrigated for wheat and other crops. The Touchet River is crucial habitat for endangered bull trout and steelhead.  In many years, low flows and high temperatures limit downstream migration of juvenile steelhead and upstream migration of adult steelhead who return to the headwaters of the Touchet to spawn. Improved stream flows during critical periods of the year and the resulting lower temperatures will improve habitat for wild bull trout and wild steelhead, as well as reintroduced spring Chinook salmon. 
Our largest Walla Walla Basin water right purchase was in collaboration with the Talbott family on the Touchet River in 2010. WWT and the Talbott’s reached an agreement for the permanent purchase of up to 3 cfs (which equates to about 1.9 million gallons per day) in the Touchet River to protect stream flow for fish, while the Talbott’s 385 acre farm remains in production. As part of the agreement, Talbotts grow dry-land wheat instead of irrigated wheat allowing endangered fish to receive lifesaving stream flow during prime spawning seasons in the spring and fall. Mr. Talbott said of the agreement, “I was happy to help out the local stream, but it worked for me too because I could still raise dry-land crops and keep my farm in production.”

The Talbott agreement permanently protects 387.3 acre feet of water annually and, in most years, will benefit approximately 31 miles of river habitat for fish and wildlife. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife strongly supported this project because of the direct benefits it will provide to juvenile salmon and steelhead as they migrate out to the ocean, and to adult salmon and steelhead as they return up the Walla Walla River. This effort, when viewed in combination with WWT's other Touchet River water right agreements and habitat improvement projects, represents a significant step towards restoration of water and fisheries resources in the Walla Walla Basin.