Department of Ecology News Release - July 13, 2016

New siphons deliver needed water to Odessa farmers
Event marks 10-year milestone for Columbia River water program

View images from the project on Flickr.

WARDEN – Farmers, local dignitaries and water managers today celebrated construction of the new Lind Coulee Siphon complex. It’s part of a 10-year effort to bring surface water to hundreds of deep-well irrigators now relying on a declining aquifer known as the Odessa Subarea.

With the flip of a switch and raising of a gate, water from the Columbia River poured through newly built siphons to be delivered to farmers growing potatoes, corn, alfalfa, and seed crops in the rolling hills near this Eastern Washington town.

“Today beautifully illustrates how together we can achieve water solutions for farmers and growing communities, and benefit the natural environment,” said Washington state Department of Ecology director Maia Bellon. “Through these siphons we will deliver water to farmers who need it; to support a $1.5 billion agricultural industry; to put good food on our tables, and protect a precious aquifer that has dropped by as much as 200 feet since 1980.”

This winter, the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID) oversaw the construction of two additional siphons for the Lind Coulee Siphon complex. The new siphons run parallel to existing siphons first built in the 1950s. The 14-foot-8-inch diameter siphons, with 17-inch walls of steel-reinforced concrete, stretch nearly 4,500 feet underground south of Interstate 90 in the sprawling Columbia Basin Project.

Director Bellon attributed the project’s success to important partnerships with the irrigation district, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project and Ecology’s Office of Columbia River.

“This was no small feat by the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District,” Bellon said. “Not only was the project on time, it came in under budget by more than $2 million.”

The $14.6-million Lind Coulee Siphon construction project is part of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program. The project builds on the widening of the East Low Canal, also funded by the state, and the Weber Siphon complex constructed in 2009 with federal stimulus recovery money.

“This new siphon gives us the extra capacity needed to offer groundwater farmers access to surface water along 31 miles of the widened canal,” said ECBID District Manager Craig Simpson. “We can now tap into water from Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam and serve 17,700 acres of farmland under a master water service contract we have with Reclamation.”

When the project is fully built out, federal surface water will be made available to an additional 70,000 acres now using groundwater, providing relief to a total of 87,700 agricultural acres. Eligible Odessa Subarea farmers will have their state-issued groundwater rights put into reserve when they take delivery of the irrigation project water and shut off their wells.

“We’re proud to be part of the partnership that’s delivering long-awaited surface water to our East Columbia irrigators who’ve encountered poor water quality and added expenses when faced with drilling deeper wells in the Odessa Subarea,” said Lorri Lee, Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Regional director.

The ceremony marks a 10-year milestone for the state’s Columbia River Water Management Program. The state Legislature authorized the program in 2006 to address current and future water shortages and environmental degradation in Eastern Washington.

Specifically, the program’s goals are to find and alternative water source for the Odessa Subarea Aquifer and develop water supply for pending water right applications. The program also provides water for irrigators whose rights might be interrupted during drought, for new municipal, domestic, industrial and irrigation water needs, and for streams when fish need it most.

“We’re making water available to cities, industries and farmers from the Canadian border to the Oregon border, while protecting water in tributaries where salmon migrate and spawn, and restoring floodplains and the natural environment,” said Tom Tebb, Ecology’s Office of Columbia River director. “It’s been a tremendous journey, but there’s much more to achieve. We’re looking to the future and what our water supplies will be in the face of climate change and how we may adapt.”

The state’s Columbia River program has invested about $75 million in Columbia Basin Project infrastructure. In total, nearly $200 million has been invested in more than 40 projects across Eastern Washington for both in-stream and out-of-stream benefits. 

Contacts:

Brook Beeler, Ecology communications manager, 509-329-3478; @ecySpokane

Michael Williamson, Reclamation public affairs specialist, 208-378-5212

Craig Simpson, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, 509-349-2452