Eastern Washington water leaders know farmers in the Odessa Subarea are growing impatient waiting to replace their declining groundwater wells with Columbia River water, and plan to offer them an update on the project’s progress.
The theme of this year’s Columbia Basin Development League annual conference is “Where the Hell’s My Water?”
The name arose from a league board meeting.
“It was a lively discussion – we were reflecting on the fact we’ve been working on this project for seven years now,” said Mike Schwisow, director of government relations for the league. “One of the board members threw that out off the top of his head. People were pretty jovial, ‘Yeah, that sounds good, let’s go with that.’”
And the answer?
“It’s not very far off on the horizon,” Schwisow said.
The conference begins at 1:20 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Big Bend Community College ATEC building, located at 7611 Bolling St. N.E. in Moses Lake, Wash.
The groundwater replacement project includes a full, 43-mile expansion of the East Low Canal on the Columbia Basin Project south on Interstate 90 and a series of pump station and pipeline systems to affected farm land. The project is ready to build subject to the availability of funds, Schwisow said.
“Where those systems are exactly depends on the landlords themselves – their desire for the water and their willingness to participate in the process to get it built,” he said.
Original Bureau of Reclamation cost estimates peg the total price at $730 million, although the league and irrigation district expect it will wind up costing less.
The Washington Department of Ecology and East Columbia Basin Irrigation District are finalizing contracts and grants to do the expansion work on the canal, Schwisow said.
“The water is on its way,” Schwisow said. “It will get there as fast as (the irrigation district) is able to do the work and farmers get organized around the plan to develop the pump station and pipeline system.”
The bulk of the expenses of the pump and pipeline systems will fall to farmers. The district is surveying landowners to gauge interests and held an informational meeting in September, Schwisow said.
Schwisow said the district may issue bonds to fund the project.
The meeting will also include an update on the Columbia River Treaty and its possible impacts on the Columbia Basin Project, a panel report on irrigation district projects and presentation by Central Washington University geology senior lecturer Nick Zentner on Ice Age impacts on central Washington. McGregor Company President Alex McGregor delivers the keynote address about the importance of pioneer Basin values to the future of agriculture.