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Teanaway River

Project Type: Flow Restoration
Location: Upper Yakima Watershed

WWT has been working to restore flow to the Teanaway River since 2003 when many stretches of this beautiful river important for endangered salmon would run dry in drought years and dangerously low even in normal years. Today, the Teanaway flows year round but we are still working to ensure the river has enough flow for fish to be able to pass critical riffles to reach upstream habitat. During the historic drought of 2015, the Teanaway River continued to flow thanks to WWT's flow agreements with local irrigators, saving local fish and wildlife from an environmental catastrophe.

Our Approach
  • Helping Rivers Flow
  • Restoring Landscapes for Water
  • Planning for Future Water Uses
  • Finding Alternative Water Sources

Historically, the Teanaway River was known as one of the top producers of spring Chinook, steelhead and coho in the Yakima basin. However, with decreasing snowpack and significant irrigation demands, the Teanaway began to struggle to supply enough water to overcome the low-flow barriers that limit migration, spawning and rearing of native anadromous fish. 

When WWT launched our efforts to restore flow to the Teanaway River with our first water lease in 2003, it needed a lot of help as many stretches of this beautiful river were going dry in drought years and dangerously low even in normal years. We began looking for landowners willing to partner with us on water leases up and down the river, building both local trust and flow over time. 

Working closely with landowners as well as the Kittitas Conservation District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others, 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, we were able to restore water to the river for summer flows, preventing the pooling and stranding of fish that would occur in dry summer months. 

By the time the historic drought of 2015 hit, bringing the hottest, driest summer in recorded history, WWT had acted in the nick of time. As the flows dropped and dropped that year, and water rights were shut down one after the other, the water WWT had secured in trust held. Nearly all of the 2,000 gallons per minute (4.5 cfs) that found its way down the Teanaway in the driest part of that year was water WWT had acquired instream. 2019 was a better year for the Teanaway, but still only about 10.9 cfs made it to the Yakima River in the driest part of the summer. 

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. In order to support all of these stakeholders, more water needs to be restored to the Teanaway River. Our primary goal now is to purchase the water that we have been leasing and leaving instream. This would mean that the water would be protected in the Teanaway River forever.

At a Glance

Working Partners
  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
  • WA Dept. of Ecology
  • Kittitas Conservation District
  • Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group
ESA-listed Fish Species
Summer Steelhead
Bull Trout
Non-ESA-listed Fish Species
Spring Chinook
Total Projects In This River/Tributary
Level of Climate Threat
The projected impact of climate change on summer streamflows by 2040 (via Washington Department of Ecology).