Mary Dye Tag

Reprinted with permission from Irrigation Leader Magazine: The mighty Columbia Basin Project (CBP) is a Reclamation project that dates back to the 1940s and provides Columbia River water to 671,000 acres in east-central Washington State. Some may be unaware, however that while the entire CBP was authorized by Congress, only three quarters of it have been completed. The delay in the completion of the CBP is now creating serious problems for Central Washington irrigators and communities. Most significantly, farmers in the Odessa, Washington, region received permits from the Washington Department of Ecology to drill deep wells on the understanding that a canal would eventually be built to bring CBP water to the land. However, that did not happen for over 40 years, and as a result, the Odessa-area aquifer is being depleted at a rapid rate. The “ancient water” that is now being pumped from it is old, high in temperature, and filled with salt and minerals that make it ill-suited for irrigation. The decline of the aquifer not only threatens irrigators in the region; there are also 12 communities that risk losing their domestic water supplies. To guarantee the continuance of high-value agriculture in the region to restore the aquifer, and to secure the water supplies of local municipalities, that use of groundwater must be replaced with the use of surface water from the Columbia River. This expansive undertaking, known as the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Project (OGWRP), involves large pumps to pump the water out of the river, large pipes to convey it to the Odessa area, and laterals to bring it to the farms. Only now, with a new pipeline built through the OGWRP, are the first deliveries of Columbia River water being made to the region. In this interview, we speak with four Washington State legislators who have played key roles in helping to fund and advance the OGWRP about the importance of the project and the way forward.
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