New status offers flexibility to Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership

The group will now be able to provide compensation to water rights holders who agree to use less than their full allotment.

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WALLA WALLA -- A new standing for a local watershed group may open new opportunities for water rights holders.

The Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership has been awarded the status of a "Qualified Local Entity" under the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program, said Executive Director Cathy Schaeffer.

That status means the partnership will be able to receive support to lease or acquire water rights and seek other voluntary approaches to enhance and restore stream flows in the Walla Walla River basin, Schaeffer said in a release.

The transaction program is managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration.

While current partnership programs will continue to allow water rights holders to simply bank their water under a non-use agreement, the Transactions Program provides funds to compensate holders for trusting or banking water rights through non-use agreements and other innovative transactions.

"The QLE status will build the partnership's capacity and open access to needed funds for transactions to complement established program goals of managing water for fish, for farms and for people," Schaeffer said.

Information on the program is available from Chris Hyland, director for Water Management Programs.

On the web

Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership: www.wallawallawatershed.org.

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