Irrigation transfer bill introduced

The Yakima River flows through Prosser, Wash., to the top of the Prosser Dam. The 6-megawatt dam would be part of the second phase of the transfer of federal assets to the Kennewick Irrigation District. The first phase is underway in Congress.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Legislation to transfer title of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation irrigation assets to the Kennewick Irrigation District is being introduced in the U.S. House.

“Water providers across our region and across the West face numerous challenges to supply water, including growing demand, aging infrastructure and changing precipitation patterns,” Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said in announcing HR 6652 at the KID office in Kennewick on Aug. 6.

Title transfer will allow the district to be more responsive, efficient and innovative in serving water to the community, Newhouse said.

“The title transfer allows the district to take ownership of what our customers have paid for. It will greatly benefit our community by allowing local challenges to be addressed locally and enhancing operational efficiencies,” said Dean Dennis, KID board president, in thanking Newhouse for the bill.

The measure is in keeping with a December 2017 agreement between the district and bureau. It will transfer title of a portion of lands and irrigation canals from Chandler Pump Station, 11.2 miles east of Prosser, and running 40 miles east. Another 34 miles is being considered for later.

The city of Kennewick wants “linear parks,” in bureau right of way on top of enclosed canals, for use as recreational trails, Charles Freeman, district manager has said. It’s almost impossible for the bureau to approve such, but the district would allow it, he said.

The district also could be faster in processing easements when properties are sold and releasing easements that have never been used, he said.

The parties intend to complete the transfer no later than two years after the bill is passed by Congress and signed by the president. Freeman said he hopes that happens before year’s end.

The district has paid the bureau nearly $4.6 million on a lease-loan over 65 years, Freeman said. The district already pays system maintenance and is liable for it, he said.

A second phase, being considered for later, would include the dam at Prosser, fish screens, the 11.2-mile diversion canal from the dam to Chandler Pump Station, two, six-megawatt hydroelectrical generators, associated water rights and a mile-long, 99-inch diameter siphon that carries water under the river and Interstate 82 from hydropumps to the canal.

The hydro generators produce about $1 million worth of electricity annually with that revenue going to the bureau. If KID owned the generators and had the revenue it likely would be spent on deferred maintenance of the facility, Freeman has said.

The district serves 20,201 acres and 23,249 accounts in Kennewick and surrounding area from Chandler to Finley. It serves residential areas in Kennewick and Richland and orchards, vineyards and blueberry and hay fields.

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