The Columbia Basin Development League is seeking federal funding in an effort to reduce the cost of bringing Columbia River water to Eastern Washington farmers to irrigate their fields.

The league is asking for $20 million from the federal government to complete construction of the East Low Canal as part of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Project, said Mike Schwisow, director of government relations for the league.

The organization’s annual meeting will be 1-8 p.m. Nov. 3 at Big Bend Community College ATEC Building in Moses Lake, Wash.

Schwisow will speak at the event about financing the project.

The goal is to replace declining well water in the Odessa Subarea with water from the Columbia River as part of the federal Columbia Basin Project.

“The biggest need is some additional public investment, because the cost that landowners are being asked to bear now is probably out of proportion,” Schwisow said.

The East Columbia Basin Irrigation District caps the estimated annual cost to landowners at $253 per acre for 30 years. Schwisow hopes to reduce the cost to $200 per acre “to be fair.”

The project is already delivering water to several thousand acres, he said.

The league’s broader goal is to complete the federal Columbia Basin Project,which now serves about 671,000 acres of the 1,029,000 acres authorized by Congress in the 1930s.

This year’s conference centers on infrastructure, operations and maintenance.

“We need to focus on the investment in existing infrastructure as well as the focus on completing the Odessa groundwater replacement program,” Schwisow said.

Agenda items include:

• A water supply-and-demand report for the Columbia River Basin.

• A panel discussion by managers of the local irrigation districts.

• Infrastructure needs from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Lorri Lee.

• A panel about the next steps for the Odessa project.

• A report from lobbyist Ian Lyle.

• Tom Tebb, director of the state Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River.

The keynote speaker is Gary Chandler, vice president for government affairs for the Association of Washington Business.


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