What looked like a drop in the bucket in April as far as drought-relief money from the Legislature became more like a spigot Thursday on word that a capital budget compromise includes millions of dollars for both the drought and a long-term plan to secure water resources in the Yakima Basin.

The capital budget bill sent to Gov. Jay Inslee includes at least $14 million to respond to drought conditions. That amount will go up by $2 million if a separate bill authorizing the state to issue bonds passes the Senate before the special session ends July 27.

Also in that bond bill is $30 million for projects to improve the water supply in the Yakima River Basin, a 30-year plan to ensure water for fish, farmers and municipalities.

The capital budget, which is financed by the sale of bonds, is different from the state operating budget, which Inslee signed just before midnight Tuesday.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, fought for the money as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on the capital budget. Some House Democrats initially wanted to spend $9 million on the drought response in the first year of the 2015-17 biennium.

Honeyford said Thursday the favorable deal involved good, old-fashioned horsetrading.

“Well, it came out in this compromise. They were wanting something and I was wanting something, so we compromised and both got something,” he said in a telephone interview.

The latest water supply forecast Thursday for junior irrigators in the Yakima River Basin remains at 44 percent, unchanged for the past two months. While senior irrigators should receive a full supply, low snowpack already is hurting junior irrigators. The Bureau of Reclamation has advised that the water supply may decline further.

The drought-relief funds, assuming Inslee signs the bill, will be used by the state Department of Ecology to buy water rights and enable transfers to get water to farmers who need it.

The $2 million from the sale of bonds would be for capital-type projects, including well deepening, changing water intakes for hatcheries and other drought-related problems.

Honeyford and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who heads the capital budget committee in that chamber, have tangled before over money for water. But Dunshee got what he wanted in the bond bill: $54.6 million for a new 95,000-square-foot Washington State University building at the Everett University Center.

Honeyford said he and Dunshee managed to work it out.

“We disagree quite a bit of the time on things, but he knows I play hardball and I know he does. We understand each other,” he said.

The budget passed the House by a vote of 96-2 and the Senate by 44-1.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.
Posting comments is now limited to subscribers only. Become one today or log in using the link below. For additional information on commenting click here.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.