January 8, 2019 MOMENTUM IN THE FACE OF CHALLENGE: 2018 LEAGUE CONFERENCE SEES ANOTHER YEAR OF SUCESS
Nearly 170 people attended the League’s 2018 Conference, held November 1 in Moses Lake, for a day focused on Columbia Basin Project information and updates. In keeping with the theme of the event – “Momentum in the Face of Challenge” – many presentations included an acknowledgement of the perseverance, progress and work still to be done regarding the Columbia Basin Project (CBP).
According to survey responses, the 2019 League Conference proved a great success in terms of increasing attendee “knowledge gain” on topics such as: the Pasco Pump Lateral project, CBP water quality requirements and efforts, Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP) East Low Canal expansion and structure construction, OGWRP landowner decisions, state and federal politics’ implications for the CBP, and more.
The day-long event featured speakers from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, each CBP irrigation district, the Office of Columbia River—Department of Ecology, Big Bend Electric Cooperative, Adams County Development Council, and Kagele Family Farms. League lobbyists also spoke. Attendees included landowners, elected officials, agency staff members, and many other interested stakeholders. Keynote speaker, U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), shared that he would continue to advocate for further federal investments in water resources in the Columbia Basin, particularly mentioning the necessity for progress on critical water infrastructure projects such as OGWRP.
The League’s annual meeting and presentation of awards took place during lunch. Elections were conducted by mail-in ballot this year, and the results were announced at the annual meeting. Current Board members whose terms were set to expire at the end of the year but were re-elected to another three-year term are: JJ Danz (Mesa), Joe Gross (Marlin), Michele Kiesz (Ritzville), John Preston (Warden), and Bill Wagoner (Quincy). Newly elected Board members who will be seated in January are: Randy Gubler, Manager, Lad Irrigation (Moses Lake); Matt Harris, Assistant Executive Director and Director of Governmental Affairs, Washington State Potato Commission (Moses Lake); Stephen McFadden, Executive Director, Adams County Economic Development Director (Ritzville); Darcy Weisner, Superintendent, ESD 123 (Pasco); and Brad Peck, Commissioner, Franklin County (Pasco). Outgoing Board members who did not seek another term were thanked: Jeff Schibel (Odessa), Andy Erickson (Moses Lake), Bernie Erickson (Ritzville), Rick Miller (Pasco), and Richard Stevens (Soap Lake). Board Chair, Kevin Lyle, was also thanked for his service as Chair. According to Bylaws, two consecutive years is the maximum allowed in that office. Kevin will continue on the Board, but a new Chair will be elected by the Board.
The 2019 Conference will be held in Moses Lake on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
Special Honors included:
HONORARY LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARD
The Washington State Potato Commission was this year’s recipient of the Honorary Life Member recognition. Honorary Life Members have a long history with the Columbia Basin Project. The Potato Commission, created in 1956, is closely tied to the Project: Grant County is the #1 potato producing county in the U.S., Washington Potato growers rank first, internationally, in in per-acre yield, and the Odessa sub-area is known for producing potatoes that store better, longer than anywhere else in the world.
Former League Board Trustee, Milt Johnston, was recognized as a Trustee Emeritus. Milt, owner of Johnston Property Management in Ellensburg, was a long-time board member and former Board Chair. His career includes 23-year with the Department of Natural Resources as well as service in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison was presented the Perseverance Award for the “ability to carry on until you complete the task, regardless of how hard it may seem.” Director Sandison has more than 40 years in the public and private sectors including as the former Director of the Office of Columbia River, Department of Ecology, where he repeatedly worked to advance Columbia Basin Project causes.