Umatilla Basin farmers currently divert 2,000 cubic-feet-per-second of water during summer months from the Columbia River, representing a fraction of the 100,000 to 500,000 cfs that flows past the McNary Dam at any one time during the course of a year.
Adding 800 cfs to that diversion “could materially impact over 100,000 acres” of the 180,000 acres in the basin, said Craig Reeder, chief financial officer for Hale Farms.
“That makes wholesale changes to our area and wholesale changes to the economy,” Reeder said.
The 2,000 cfs farmers currently divert from the Columbia River in summer months is equivalent to a little under 1.5 million acre-feet.
An acre-foot of water is enough to fill an acre 1 foot deep.
The state has prohibited farmers from obtaining additional summer diversions from the river since the 1990s.
Reeder said he believes the state could drop the moratorium on new summer water withdrawals without harming fish.
“We think we can pump a finite amount of additional summer water from the Columbia without harm to the resources,” he said.
Despite this, Reeder said irrigators didn’t propose new summer diversions in recent negotiations with a coalition of diverse interests.