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Odessa irrigation update to be featured at CBDL meeting

The Columbia Basin Development League holds its annual meeting in Moses Lake, Wash. Nov. 6.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on October 29, 2014 10:21AM

The Columbia Basin Development League will offer an update on efforts to connect Odessa-area farms with water from the Columbia River during the group’s 50th annual meeting, which will be Nov. 6 in Moses Lake, Wash.

A representative of the East Columbia Irrigation District will talk about the efforts to replace irrigation water from the declining aquifer in the Odessa Subarea.

Last year, the district added 13 miles to the East Low Canal using a $26 million grant from the state Department of Ecology. This year, it will extend the canal 30 miles, said Mike Schwisow, director of government relations for the league.

The total estimated cost of the project is roughly $700 million, based on engineering estimates, putting the cost to farmers at roughly $10,000 per acre. The actual cost is expected to be lower, Schwisow said. The district will present the latest cost estimates at the conference.

Landowners will contract to receive water from the irrigation district, which will issue bonds to finance construction of the irrigation infrastructure.

The irrigation district is preparing to make decisions about issuing its first water service contracts, Schwisow said.

The league hopes to find funding for the final part of the East Low Canal. If the state and federal governments don’t provide it, the irrigation district will have to finance the remainder of the work, which would cost about $30 million.

“The more we can get the federal government to stay engaged, the less we have to repay in the long term,” Schwisow said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and three area irrigation district managers will provide insight into the federal Columbia Basin Project during a panel discussion at the meeting, which will start at 1 p.m. in the ATEC Building on the Big Bend Community College campus.

The organization will also focus on reinvestment in irrigation infrastructure, Schwisow said.

“Ongoing maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement of things that wear out is on the districts,” he said. “We’ve reached the point where we’ve used the useful life of a lot of district facilities, and we’re going to see a period of time over the next number of years where rehabilitation and replacement costs are greatly increased.”




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