Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes and Bands - 2008 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes and Bands
Location: Toppenish, WA
Project Title: Yakama Nation Hydropower Project
Type of Application: Deployment
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG36-08GO18122
Project Amounts:
DOE: $1,099,461
Awardee: $1,099,461
Total: $2,198,922
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2008
End: July 2011


It is the intention of the Yakama Nation (YN) to make improvements on the Wapato Irrigation Project (WIP) for the benefit of all stakeholders. Water management, water conservation and water allocation on the Wapato Irrigation Project are equally as important as hydropower. Irrigation will always be the primary purpose of this water system, but the irrigation system can also generate energy. The purpose of this project is the purchase and installation of inflow water turbines to generate an additional 1 MW of hydroelectrical power.

Project Description


The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 established the deregulation of the electricity industry. The Yakama General Council, which includes all tribal members 18 years and older, gave approval to the Tribal Council to research the opportunities in the electricity industry (General Council Resolution- GC04-98). The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) recognized the Yakama Nation as a public body or cooperative, opening the possibility for the Yakama Nation to form a tribal utility. After several years of planning and intergovernmental negotiations, Yakama Power was established as a not-for-profit utility. Yakama Power began supplying electrical energy to several tribally operated facilities in May 2006. Ultimately, Yakama Power plans to serve 7,000 residents, approximately 15,000 people residing on the 1.4 million acres of the Yakama Reservation.

The Wapato Irrigation Project is located on the Yakama Reservation, Yakima County, in Washington state. This plant was constructed and is operated by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It is located on Wapato main canal, at canal mile 3.5 near the East ¼ corner of Section 35, Township 12N, Range 18EW.M., about 4 miles northwest of Wapato. The installation includes three hydraulic turbine powered pumping units, each with 90 feet of pump head and pump capacity of 60 cfs, or total of 180 cfs. The power water head is 26 feet, and the pump power water ratio is 6:1. About 1,080 cfs total power water is needed to generate the power required to pump the 180 cfs of water. Tail water is all used for irrigation in the lower main canal. In August 2009, a feasibility study was completed for the installation of a small potential hydroelectric project and required permitting associated with WIP's existing canal system.

Several documents related to this project have also been published: a Phase I Environmental Site assessment was completed in 2007 for the WIP; the USDA Farm Service Agency published a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Yakama Nation Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in September 2005; and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) published the interim Comprehensive Basin Operating Plan for the Yakama Project in November 2002.

Project Objectives

The core objective for this proposal is to meet the Yakama Nation's goal in hydroelectric power development. This will include the installation of inflow water turbines on the Wapato Irrigation Project. The Yakama Nation will prepare an EA in preparation to purchase and install new water turbines for hydropower generation of 1 MW. This is a valuable economic development strategy for Yakama Nation that will create new jobs, improve and increase rural electrification and attract private investments. This water system has an untapped low head/low power potential without the need to construct a new dam. The objective of Phase 1 is to complete an EA and obtain approval to proceed with installation of the hydroelectric power system.


The Wapato Irrigation Project is currently not generating hydro-electrical power. The vintage electrical equipment has deteriorated over time. However, there is still considerable potential for the water system to once again generate marketable power. The Yakama Nation and the operators of the Wapato Irrigation Project agreed on a cooperative effort to repair and improve the water system. Phase 1 of the project will include the EA for the installation of 1 MW of hydroelectric capacity in the Wapato irrigation system.

On October 23, 2009, the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Yakama Agency requested National Energy Policy Act (NEPA) Lead Agency status in the preparation of the EA. Upon DOE approval, BIA will assume Lead Agency status for the EA, with DOE being a cooperative agency.

The project will occur in two phases, Environmental Assessment and Project Implementation. Only Phase 1, Environmental Assessment, is currently approved as part of this agreement. The following are the tasks to meet the objectives of Phase 1, Environmental Assessment, for the hydroelectric project:

Task 1 — Project Scope Development
The tribe's consultant will complete interviews with various YN DNR and YP representatives, and their designated design professionals to develop a summation of the project need, purpose and proposed action (project description). The purpose of the summation will be to produce an abbreviated document that can be distributed early in the EA process to the Yakama Nation Tribal Historical Preservation and Cultural Resource programs as a portion of the request for project review and the Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) as a portion of the request for the identification of potential project concerns or issues that should be evaluated. The intent is to minimize the potential for additional concerns to be identified in the review process that have not been previously addressed in the draft EA document.

Task 2 — Data Collection and Site Reconnaissance
Readily available public domain data for the project area will be reviewed to help characterize site conditions and identify any sensitive environmental areas that could potentially be impacted by the proposed project. Information collected and reviewed may include published or unpublished maps and reports for existing facilities on or near the project area. This information will be obtained from in-house files, federal agencies, Yakima County, Yakama Nation and/or other files for adjacent permitting or development efforts, if available. The public document search will include, if required, obtaining lists of threatened and endangered species from appropriate federal and state agencies (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association fisheries, DOI, U. S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife) and reviewing any local, state or national maps for the presence of known wetland or stream systems in the area. Completion of supporting project documentation could be delayed due to receipt of public domain information.

Task 3 — Draft NEPA Environmental Assessment
Data gathered from the domain search and site visit discussed above will be evaluated concurrent with known project plans and other data obtained to provide appropriate project impact assessment and mitigation evaluation. These assessments include the following:

  • Potential minor and/or cumulative impacts to environmental quality in the areas of traffic, noise, hazardous waste and water quality
  • Potential impacts to listed species or their habitat, including construction activities, storm water detention approaches, etc.
  • Potential conflicts with federal, state or local environmental protection laws or requirements, including any conflicts with local zoning or land use plans
  • Potential threats or hazards to the public or highly uncertain risks to the environment.

Project Location

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, or simply Yakama Nation (formerly Yakima), is a Native American group with nearly 10,000 enrolled members living in Washington. Their reservation, along the Yakima River, covers an area of approximately 1.2 million acres (5,260 kmĀ²). Today the nation is governed by the Yakama Tribal Council, which consists of representatives of 14 tribes and bands.

Initial construction for the WIP began in 1868 by the federal government for agricultural purposes on the Yakama Reservation. The Yakima River basin drains about 6,150 square miles, or 4 million acres. Elevations range from 8,184 feet in the Cascades to 340 feet at the mouth of the river. The Yakima River flows for about 215 miles. Its major tributaries include the Naches, Kachess, Cle Elum and Teanaway Rivers in the upper basin (above Yakima, Washington) and the Toppenish and Satus Creeks in the lower basin.

The Wapato Irrigation Project is located within the lower basin with the primary purpose of agricultural irrigation. Some of the irrigated land on the Wapato Irrigation Project is held in trust for individual enrolled Yakama landowners and for the YN by the United States. The remaining irrigated land is privately owned. Today, the irrigation project services 142,000 acres and is self-funded by approximately 5,000 customers. The primary water supply is diverted from the Yakima River at the Wapato Diversion Dam and consists of 1,100 miles of canal.

Project Status

This project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2008 funding opportunity announcement, "Renewable Energy or Energy Efficiency Deployment in Indian Country — Contiguous 48 States," awarded September 2008 and started September 2010.

The November 2008 and November 2009 project status reports provide more information.

For current project status or additional information, please contact the project contact.

Project Contact

Connie Lewis
P.O. Box 151
401 Fort Road
Toppenish, WA 98948
509-865-5121 ext. 4658

Philip Rigdon
P.O. Box 151
Toppenish, WA 98948
509-865-5121 ext. 4655