Shortly after learning of the almost $2 million in U.S. Bureau of Reclamation FY18 funding for work on the Columbia Basin Project, the League made a trip to Washington D.C. to advocate further for the Columbia Basin Project. League representatives included Board Chair and farmer, Kevin Lyle; Past Chair, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Chair, and farmer Orman Johnson; Executive Committee Member, Matt Hawley of Lamb Weston; Director of Government Relations, Mike Schwisow; and League Assistant Director, Sara Higgins. The League was joined by Tom Tebb, Director of the Office of Columbia River, Department of Ecology. Meetings included:

  • Deputy Commissioner David Palumbo, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Professional Staff, House Water and Power Subcommittee—Majority and Minority
  • Professional Staff, Senate Water and Power Subcommittee
  • Senator Maria Cantwell
  • Casey Katims, Office of Governor Jay Inslee
  • Congressman Dan Newhouse
  • Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers
  • Josephine Eckert, Office of Senator Murray
  • Keil Weaver, Office of Speaker Ryan
  • David Marten, Office of Congressman Denny Heck

The League’s messages were focused:

  1. Fund Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program in Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project line item in FY19 and FY20 (read white paper:
  2. Support efforts by the Department of Ecology and Grant and Adams Counties to secure U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD grant funds for the 10 county bridges needing to be replaced as a result of the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program’s widening of the East Low Canal (read white paper:
  3. Reinvest in Columbia Basin Project Infrastructure
    • Develop additional sources of water infrastructure funding
    • Continue programs like WaterSMART grants used regularly by the Columbia Basin Project irrigation districts for projects like coordinated water conservation (read white paper:

While in DC, the League received notice that the Senate Appropriation Committee’s recommendation for FY19 appropriations--which the Senate may act on before the end of the summer—included an increase of $490.983 million for Reclamation. It should be noted that while this announcement is good news for the Columbia Basin Project, it remains early in the appropriations process. This is not, yet, a guarantee of increased federal funds for the Columbia Basin Project in FY19.

Nevertheless, within that increased total, $241.844 million is for the discretionary “Water Conservation and Delivery” line item, the same source from which $1.99 million was made available for the Pasco Pump Lateral, Potholes Supplemental Feed Route, and the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWR) in FY18.  Of note, the President’s original FY19 budget included nothing for Water Conservation and Delivery. Additionally, the committee recommended an increase of $24 million over the President’s budget for the WaterSMART program, for a total of $34 million.

Since Water Conservation and Delivery funds are discretionary for Reclamation, the Senate Appropriations Committee also included report language in its recommendation to prioritize how Reclamation will use the recommended funds. OGWRP is eligible to receive funding in FY19 based on the priorities listed in two sections of the sub-committee’s report (read report in full here:

Groundwater Recharge. —Using the funds recommended under the heading ‘‘Water Conservation and Delivery’’, Reclamation shall make funding available for water conservation programs, conjunctive use projects, and other projects to maximize groundwater storage and beneficial use.”

“Additional Funding for Water and Related Resources Work. —The Committee recommendation includes an additional $490,983,000 above the budget request for Water and Related Resources studies, projects, and activities. Priority in allocating these funds shall be given to advance and complete ongoing work; including preconstruction activities and where environmental compliance has been completed; improve water supply reliability; improve water deliveries; enhance national, regional, or local economic development; promote job growth; advance Tribal and nontribal water settlement studies and activities; or address critical backlog maintenance and rehabilitation activities. Reclamation is encouraged to allocate additional funding for aquifer recharging efforts to address the ongoing backlog of related projects…”

Additionally, thanks to Senator Murray’s action on behalf of stakeholders, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recommendation also included language directing Reclamation to request funds for OGWRP in future budgets:

“Columbia Basin Project. —The Committee understands the Odessa Subarea of the Columbia Basin Project is facing significant challenges as groundwater from the aquifer has been declining. This rapid decline has put agriculture production and commercial, municipal, and industrial water uses at risk. The Committee commends Reclamation’s work with the State of Washington and impacted irrigation districts to prevent further depletion of the aquifer and deliver surface water to agricultural lands within the Columbia Basin Project through a pressurized delivery system. In May 2018, Reclamation issued a Supplemental Information Report for the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program that allows Reclamation to request funding to support the project, which to date has been supported through State, local, and private investments. The Committee encourages Reclamation to request funding in future budgets to support projects associated with the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program.”

Efforts by the League and stakeholders to elevate the priority of the Columbia Basin Project are being acknowledged.

League board and staff met with Senator Maria Cantwell in DC to discuss the Project
The team preparing for a day of meetings in DC at Water Strategies office
League board and staff pictured with Senator Patty Murray after chatting about sustainable maintenance and completion of the Project

Stay up to date with Project happenings every month.