Legislature OKs funds for Odessa Aquifer Project

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OLYMPIA — State legislators have provided $15 million in the state’s recently passed capital budget to help farmers east of Moses Lake convert from well water to Columbia River water for irrigation.

According to the legislation, $15 million of the total $40 million appropriation for the Columbia River Water Supply Development Program in 2019-2021 will include “a canal pump station, an electrical power substation, booster pump stations, and a large-diameter full-sized pipeline sufficient to irrigate 16,000 acres” north of Interstate 90 and east of Moses Lake from the East Low Canal to Road W Northeast.

The water is intended to “provide Columbia basin project irrigation water to the Odessa subarea to replace deep well irrigation in the declining aquifer as part of the Odessa groundwater replacement program,” according to the law.

The Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River is overseeing the Odessa aquifer project, which is one of 24 water development and improvement projects across eastern and central Washington.

“For the last 40 years, farmers in the Odessa Subarea have relied on groundwater to irrigate crops,” the department says on its Odessa project webpage. “Originally, these farmers were to receive surface water from the Columbia River as part of the Columbia Basin Project. The groundwater is being withdrawn at a rate beyond the aquifer’s capacity to refill.”

“(T)his project would have very positive impacts on the rural economies of many small communities in eastern Washington as well as help to stop the decline of the Odessa Aquifer,” read a January letter of support for the appropriation from the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The legislature anticipates appropriating $180 million in future capital budgets as this project continues.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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