Since its inception in 1964, the League has supported the Federal Reclamation Columbia Basin Project. The Project is located in east central Washington and currently serves about 671,000 acres, or about 65% of the 1,029,000 acres originally authorized by Congress, in portions of Grant, Lincoln, Adams, and Franklin Counties, and some in Douglas County. The original 1945 feasibility report anticipated a 70-year period of incremental development to complete the Project and the first half was developed in the 1950's and 1960's, with acres added sporadically until 1985.
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All principal features of the Project have been constructed except the East High Canal and the extension of the East Low Canal, which was deferred in the 1990's with a 10 year moratorium on additional water withdrawal from the Columbia River.
In the mid-1970's, anticipating that Project water would eventually get to the remaining Project lands, the Washington Department of Ecology permitted irrigation wells in the Odessa Subarea, a region of deep ground water underlying the eastern most portion of the authorized Project (east of and uphill from the existing East Low Canal).
The canal which would service these lands remains un-built and as a result, ground water pumping continues. The aquifer is declining to the extent that the ability of farmers to irrigate crops is at risk as are domestic, commercial, municipal, and industrial users. Water quality has also been affected.
The initial focus of the Columbia Basin Development League was on continued incremental development of the Project. The League's focus now is to prevent economic and environmental disaster by replacing Odessa Aquifer groundwater withdrawals with Project water.
When the moratorium was lifted in 2003 by the Bureau of Reclamation, the League began discussions on how to continue the development of the Project to take pressure off the Odessa Aquifer. Bringing Project surface water to the Odessa Subarea requires following strict series of complex rules and guidelines for development in a Federal Reclamation Project.
The League continues to play a strong role in facilitating discussion and action among stakeholders including Federal and State agencies as well as farmers, businesses, civic and economic groups and individuals interested in the Project.