MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Landowners in Eastern Washington seeking to replace declining wells should start now if they want to bring Columbia River water to their farms, irrigation district representatives say.
“It’s important to start early with these processes,” said Jed Crowther, development coordinator for the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, based in Othello, Wash. “They’re not extremely difficult, they just take some time. It’s important for landowners to have these steps completed as soon as they can so they can fully participate with their neighbors in developing a system that will serve those acres that are eligible.”
Crowther spoke during the Columbia Basin Development League annual meeting Oct. 29 in Moses Lake, Wash.
Eight delivery systems are currently anticipated. Landowners have several options, Crowther said:
• The irrigation district can design it.
• A landowner-led group can design it.
• The irrigation district or a consultant can offer design options.
• The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can step in after 30% of the design is in place from the other three options.
All options must meet bureau standards to be accepted and require district oversight and review, Crowther said.
Landowners also must have their water rights reviewed by the state Department of Ecology, Crowther said.
In addition, each delivery system will need some level of environmental review.
Upon application by the landowner, the district will certify that land is within and able to be serviced by the federal Columbia Basin Project.
Crowther warned that the process can require “lengthy hearing procedures” to have land included if it was previously excluded.
Some land may need to be reclassified with changes in irrigation technology. Landowners must submit an application, which will be reviewed by the bureau.
Easement acquisition includes cultural resource and historic preservation studies, title review, surveying and easement deed preparation.
The irrigation district has set a cap of $190 per acre per year for 30 years as the landowners’ share of the delivery system construction costs. That doesn’t include the cost of water delivery, $65.90 per acre this year.
So far, the state has invested a little more than $100 million in the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program, including $36 million to increase the capacity of the East Low Canal, which currently serves more than 1,000 farmers.
Landowner investment in the systems is part of the balance, Crowther said. The district is conducting outreach through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to leverage the state funds, he noted.
“I like to think that the program is more than replacement water for farms. It is rescue water for our region, because our communities, homes and businesses depend on water,” Crowther said.