Department of Ecology News Release - March 6, 2014

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Construction projects and contracts deliver water to Odessa area farmers

YAKIMA– Columbia Basin farmers relying on declining groundwater supplies in the Odessa Subarea are getting good news three times over.

Contracts signed today will deliver water through the new Weber Siphon to some irrigators as early as this year. Plus, construction now underway at the East Low Canal will deliver more water to others down the line thanks to a water permit just issued by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Dignitaries with Ecology, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, and others marked the occasion at a signing ceremony staged at a construction site where the East Low Canal is being widened near Moses Lake.

Increasing the capacity of East Low Canal is a crucial link in the system moving water to farmers. The Washington Legislature authorized $31 million for the project in the 2013 session.

“We’ve been working hard to secure funding and make infrastructure modifications needed to deliver water to crops grown in Grant, Lincoln, Adams and Franklin counties within the Odessa Subarea,” said Derek Sandison, Ecology’s Office of Columbia River director. “First there was the construction of the Weber Siphon and now other structural upgrades and changes are underway, funded by the state, to get water to farmers as promised.”

Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director Lorri Lee signed a contract with the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District to deliver 30,000 acre-feet of water from the state’s Lake Roosevelt Project to 10,000 acres of cropland via the Weber Siphon built in 2011. In turn, the irrigation district hopes to begin delivering some of this water to Odessa Subarea farmers as early as this year. An acre-foot equals the amount of water covering one-acre one foot deep.

“These water deliveries are a part of the continued phased development of the Columbia Basin Project,” said Stephanie Utter, Reclamation’s field office manager in Ephrata. “It’s been a long time coming, but we are glad to finally be able to serve those farmers who are eligible for this surface water, while at the same time, provide some relief to the declining groundwater levels.”

Ecology Director Maia Bellon presented Reclamation’s Lee with a secondary use permit that allows 164,000 acre-feet of Columbia River water to be delivered to another 70,000 acres of farmland within the boundaries of the Columbia Basin Project that depend on the declining aquifer.

The water right fulfills a top priority of the state’s Office of Columbia River, which is tasked with securing a new source of water for farmers growing important potato and grain crops in a targeted area, known as the Odessa Groundwater Management Subarea. Groundwater levels have dropped by as much as 200 feet since 1980 in this area.

Delivery of Columbia River water under this secondary use permit was outlined as the preferred alternative chosen last year by Ecology and Reclamation in the Odessa Subarea Special Study.

It allows water stored in Lake Roosevelt under Reclamation’s 1938 storage right to be released from Grand Coulee Dam and delivered to farmers relying on Odessa groundwater wells. Lands both north and south of Interstate 90 within the federal project boundaries will receive water by way of Banks Lake, East Low Canal and other distribution systems to be developed.

Reclamation and the East Columbia irrigators are beginning negotiations for a contract for the irrigation of the 70,000 acres under the new permit. Irrigators choosing to enter the program to replace groundwater with federal surface water are required to set aside their rights to groundwater withdrawals, placing them into standby reserve status.

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Media Contacts:

Joye Redfield-Wilder, Ecology communications, 509-575-2610; joye.redfield-wilder@ecy.wa.gov; @ecyCentral

Stephanie Utter, Reclamation Ephrata field office manager, 509-509-754-0214; sutter@usbr.gov

 

FFor more information:

Odessa Subarea Ecology site (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/cr_odessa.html)

Lake Roosevelt Incremental Storage Releases (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/cr_lkroos.html)

Odessa Subarea environmental study (www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/eis/odessa/index.html)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)