MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Finding the government funding to continue work on a canal to bring Columbia River water to farms in the Odessa subarea will be a “tough pull” in Olympia and Washington, D.C., proponents say.
The biggest funding need is completing the expansion of the East Low Canal, said Mike Schwisow, director of government relations for the Columbia Basin Development League.
A state grant of $26 million is “going to go a long ways, but not all the way to the end,” he said.
“Funding’s going to be a rough pull this time around,” Schwisow said. “The state’s under a lot of infrastructure pressure, not only for water supply, but for transportation.”
The league also hopes to get the federal government to provide roughly $25 million to $30 million to continue the project.
Landowners in the Odessa Subarea are paying for pump stations and pipeline systems to their farms. Schwisow said the league and irrigation districts may have to ask landowners to finish the expansion of the canal if money can’t be secured from the state or federal government.
The current state funding is slated to last through the middle of 2015, Schwisow said.
Schwisow is hopeful that the work done so far will help in finding more funding.
“If you can demonstrate momentum, particularly if we can demonstrate we can develop, fund and build these distribution systems, that’s going to give everyone confidence,” he said.
During their annual banquet Nov. 6 in Moses Lake, Wash., members of the league emphasized the importance of partnerships to find state and federal funding.
Many speakers spoke of aging water distribution infrastructure in the project and the need for rehabilitation.
“Some say that the Columbia Basin Project is drought-proof, but we have been blessed by having a great water supply, and never (having) a supply issue,” said Darvin Fales, general manager for the Quincy Columbia Basin Irrigation District in Quincy, Wash. “If Mother Nature doesn’t supply a drought, it’s been shown that man can. We can’t sit back and not do anything, just continue to leave our facilities the way they are and let them get in bad repair, not knowing what may be coming down the road from regulators.”