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Big news for Icicle Creek

Staff Photo
by Washington Water Trust

Author: James Kraft, Executive Director

I write today with exciting news about Icicle Creek.

A decade ago, the City of Leavenworth and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) were in court fighting over water rights and the city’s water supply from Icicle Creek. In an effort to resolve the dispute and develop a strategy for solving local water challenges, Ecology and Chelan County formed the Icicle Work Group, a partnership between government agencies, water providers, Tribes, and groups like WWT that work in water resources.

Low flows in Icicle Creek. Our collaborative work will help restore more than 1.3 billion gallons of water, flowing annually forever. Photo: Mary Jo Sanborn, Chelan County Natural Resources

A major goal of the Icicle Work Group was to work with the Cascade Orchard Irrigation Company (COIC), the irrigation company that holds the oldest and largest water right on Icicle Creek and serves hundreds of acres of farmland. The hope was to have COIC move its irrigation diversion two and a half miles downstream and replace its open ditch system with a new pump station and a piped delivery system.

Constructing the new irrigation system and purchasing some of COIC’s water right, however, required the support of COIC and the many landowners they serve and approximately $9 million in funding—no small feat.

The existing COIC diversion system on Icicle Creek. COIC’s diversion will be moved 2.5 miles downstream where a high-efficiency pump station will be built. Photo: Greg McLaughlin

Over the last decade, WWT has worked with COIC, funders, Ecology, Tribes, Federal and State agencies, and members of the Icicle Work Group to secure COIC support, develop the project, and help secure the funding.

I am thrilled to report that COIC, WWT, and Chelan County signed agreements on March 18 to finalize and officially kick off the implementation of the project. New pump station construction will begin this summer and finish in 2025.

This project will restore more than 1.3 billion gallons of water annually forever to the lower part of Icicle Creek. That restored flow will benefit threatened steelhead and other species like bull trout and spring Chinook.

The COIC project is a shining example of how diverse local groups can come together and find solutions to water issues. A huge thank you goes to COIC, the Icicle Creek Work Group, and the funders who have made this project possible. Chelan County deserves special recognition for taking on the essential role of overseeing construction.

Without our supporters, WWT would not have been able to turn this project into a big conservation win for threatened fish. We thank you and Icicle Creek thanks you, too!