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To help Odessa aquifer irrigators

On September 29, 2011, the Columbia River Policy Advisory Group (CRPAG) met in Ellensburg, Washington to discuss several major water supply issues relating to the Columbia River.

A key issue that was discussed at the CRPAG meeting was the Odessa Aquifer Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will start the process of getting surface water delivered to irrigators in the Odessa Subarea to replace their use of groundwater from the rapidly declining aquifer.

In particular, Bill Gray of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and Derek Sandison of the Washington State Department of Ecology reported on an emerging new preferred, more realistic alternative for the Odessa Aquifer EIS.

The initial draft EIS was issued in October 2010 and included a full replacement option (273,000 acre feet affecting 102,600 acres; building both the East High Canal and expanding the East Low Canal) and a partial option (138,000 acre feet affecting 57,000 acres with construction only in the lower half). However, there was significant opposition by stakeholder groups to the above mentioned options. As a result, the two agencies adjusted their assessment based on these comments and incorporation of the Columbia River BiOp.

As a result, the new preferred alternative that is being introduced will be a substantial partial option which will provide irrigation water from the East Low Canal to serve areas both north and south of I-90. Under this new scenario, 164,000 acre feet (using Bank Lakes as the water supply) would be available over 70,000 acres. The project would be available in phases and would apply stringent irrigation efficiency standards. The Final Special Study Report is due in early 2012 and the Record of Decision will be out in 2012.

According to Bill Gray of USBR, once the final Record of Decision is published in 2012, groups of irrigators east of the East Low Canal will be able to form Local Improvement Districts (LID) to pay for and construct water delivery pipelines from their farms to pumping stations on the East Low Canal. The LID’s would then be able sign agreements with East Columbia Basin Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to have surface water delivered from the East Low Canal to their farms. Given the critical situation concerning the rapidly declining aquifer, the option of allowing irrigators to form LID's will provide the quickest and most cost effective solution to quickly deliver surface water to depleted areas, according to various agency officials.

by S. C.
10 october 2011, World News > America

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