- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - State water managers are looking to lease water from farmers to keep streams from running dry in the upper Yakima River Basin.

The Department of Ecology is offering to pay willing hay farmers and other growers to not use their water diversions. Irrigators offer their water through a market-based bidding process. They must agree not to grow crops for the entire 2015 season.

Gov. Jay Inslee last month declared an emergency drought in the Olympic Peninsula, central Washington including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region.

Ecology’s program currently targets holders of senior water rights in tributaries in the basin above where the Yakima, Naches, and Tieton rivers meet at the city of Yakima.

The state is working with Washington Water Trust and Trout Unlimited to support stream flows for fish and other wildlife.

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