Wenatchee, Wa.- The Columbia Basin Development League (League) requested that U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke include the current phase of Columbia Basin Project (CBP) development in any future infrastructure package considered by the Administration.
In a letter sent last week, the League Executive Director Vicky Scharlau said, “Access to Columbia Basin Project water is a fundamental necessity for the economic vitality and sustainability of Eastern Washington, but over 300,000 of the original 1,029,000 authorized acres of productive land are still waiting for infrastructure to supply a reliable source of water”.
PROJECT IS SHOVEL READY
The letter followed a meeting with Department of Interior staff to discuss water infrastructure and interest in “shovel ready” projects. Stakeholders shared that the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP) should be considered as part of any infrastructure package.
The OGWRP is an infrastructure project being constructed in rural eastern Washington State as a solution to a depleting aquifer. The Odessa aquifer is located where the CBP has not yet been developed. As a result, farmers in the area must rely on pumping water from a now depleting aquifer.
Washington State has been working to address the issue of groundwater replacement in the Odessa subarea since 2001. In a 2004 Memorandum of Understanding between Washington State, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the three Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts, the Odessa aquifer was recognized as a critical issue and an initial 30,000 acre-feet for groundwater replacement needs was authorized.
In 2013, a Record of Decision following the Odessa Subarea Special Study Final Environmental Impact Statement provided a preferred alternative—the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program– to supply sustainable surface water to irrigate land now drawing from the Odessa aquifer.
The East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, Washington State, and landowners continue CBP development through implementation of the OGWRP. The League’s letter strongly encouraged Secretary Zinke to invest federal funds in the federally-owned CBP, and to join other MOU partners in supporting this innovative, public-private partnership providing for rural America.