Officials warn federal project will take time to move forward
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Bill Sagvold raised his hand to ask a question during the Columbia Basin Development League's annual conference.
"I am 81 years old," he said. "How old do you think I will be when you complete this project?"
That question was on many minds during the conference in Moses Lake, Wash., Oct. 29 on expanding the Columbia Basin Project to take pressure off the declining Odessa Subarea aquifer.
"We are working with as much urgency as possible," League executive director Sean McGrath said. "The biggest thing is for us to push this forward as quickly as possible, but you're dealing with a federal project."
The conference focused on what would happen when a feasibility study of expanding the water project in the Odessa Subarea is completed in mid-2011.
"There's a couple more years after (the environmental impact statement)," Bureau technical projects officer Wendy Christensen said. "We need to get appropriations for final designs and specifications. It takes about two years to get a final design."
* Building an East High Canal and expanding the East Low Canal south of Interstate 90 to replace water from the aquifer.
* Expanding the East Low Canal, replacing a portion of the water from the aquifer.
* Doing nothing.
When the study is completed, Bill Gray, the bureau's Columbia-Cascades Area Office Assistant Area Manager, said the report must be advanced to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
General reclamation law requires formal contractual arrangements for delivering project water and for recovering project costs, he said.
It will take at least a year for additional design data collection before final specifications are available, Gray said, so the first contract for construction could be out by the middle of 2014.
The Columbia Basin Project is one of the largest Reclamation projects in the United States, so it won't be completed overnight, said league government relations specialist Mike Schwisow.
Projects of the Columbia Basin Project's magnitude take time, he said.
When the Bureau of Reclamation submitted its report to Congress in 1945, officials projected it would take 77 years to build out the project, Schwisow said.
"We're still actually within the projected time it would take to complete the project," he said.
Access the special study Web site at www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/ucao_misc/odessa.