By Jeff St. John, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 18--Gov. Gary Locke on Friday unveiled an ambitious and politically challenging plan for managing Columbia River water to meet the needs of Eastern Washington farmers and communities as well as endangered fish species.
The Columbia River Initiative plan is the result of a three-year attempt to reach a compromise to satisfy water users and environmentalists. It includes proposed legislation to spend $79 million over the next 10 years to acquire and conserve water, build new water storage capacity and provide "certainty" to the holders of interruptible water rights.
But with Locke leaving office next month, a state Legislature that's been unable in the past to reach consensus on water issues, a looming state budget shortfall and the identity of Washington's next governor still undetermined, the plan faces an uncertain future.
Still, Locke praised it as the "single …