05 Jul LEAGUE ACTIVELY ADVOCATES FOR OGWRP FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
The League’s March trip to Washington D.C. along with quarter one and quarter two developments in the political arena set the stage for a number of advocacy opportunities leveraged in recent months. First, an annual appropriations request was submitted. But, for FY23, strategic collaboration with partners resulted in the League focusing only on a request for report language to again be included in the Appropriations Bill. Report language that has been included in recent appropriations bills acknowledges the critical stage of groundwater depletion in the Odessa Subarea and demonstrates the Appropriations Committee’s urging of Reclamation to support the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP).
As part of the strategy developed with partners, the League simultaneously supported requests via the earmarks process for OGWRP bridge funding. The federal earmarks process--reintroduced last year after a multi-year hiatus--continues this year and is known as Community Project Funding in the House and Congressionally Directed Spending in the Senate. The League was successful in securing $2 million for OGWRP last year via this process. This year, OGWRP partners agreed that OGWRP bridges needing replacement due to East Low Canal widening should be the focus of a Columbia Basin Project earmarks request. Adams County took the lead submitting requests, and the League provided support letters.
In late April, the House Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing as part of the FY23 appropriations process. The League worked closely with Representative Dan Newhouse’s office to submit a question for record to address concerns around the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s repayment policy currently applied to the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP).
The submitted question for Record concludes: “There are many examples of Reclamation investments in public interest projects that do not require repayment. Will Reclamation commit to reviewing whether Reclamation investments in the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program facilities are subject to repayment or are public interest projects not subject to repayment?”
Finally, following the recent USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) PL-566 grant award to East Columbia Basin Irrigation District via the Grant County Conservation District to initiate the OGWRP Watershed Planning Project, it is anticipated that once the watershed plan is approved, additional PL-566 funds can be accessed to for construction. But, the NRCS program needs to be reauthorized and adequately funded in order to respond not only to future OGWRP funding requests, but to many other NRCS project requests across the county.
With that in mind, the League sent letters to members of the Washington congressional delegation urging support of NRCS programs in the 2023 Farm Bill, particularly the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program (PL-566) which represents a new source of federal funding for OGWRP.