23 Mar The League Congratulates Stakeholders on Federal Investment in OGWRP
The League commends the efforts of East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID) and Grant County Conservation District, with the support of other public and private partners, in securing a new source of funding to supplement Office of Columbia River’s investments and to benefit the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWRP).
In response to ECBID’s PL-566 grant application, on March 3, 2022, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) approved and funded the OGWRP Watershed Planning Project. This project is one of 20 successful grant projects of its kind in the nation.
“This NRCS funding illustrates beautifully how we can partner to achieve sustainable water
resource solutions for farmers, industries, communities, and the natural environment,” said Melissa Downes, Washington State Department of Ecology financial and projects section manager for the Office of Columbia River.
Sponsored by ECBID, the OGWRP Watershed Planning Project brings $775,000 in federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA funding through NRCS to develop a watershed plan. This is a critical starting point for access to larger NCRS funding amounts for the design and construction of OGWRP features in the future. Additionally, this watershed protection plan may benefit the greater Odessa Subarea with water management elements including conservation, fish and wildlife habitat, and more.
The OGWRP Watershed Plan will build off of foundational environmental reviews already approved by Reclamation as part of the Odessa Subarea Special Study that led to OGWRP. Once the watershed plan is approved, the NRCS Small Watershed Program (PL-566 could provide funding for OGWRP pumping plants and lateral lines to deep well irrigators drawing from the declining Odessa aquifer. Work would be done over several years, but, because it is funded by a grant, it is not subject to repayment.
“The OGWRP represents a great opportunity to rescue an aquifer from decline by finding an alternative CBP water supply for existing withdrawals. This will secure more water for our local communities and ensure sustainable agricultural production that many of those same communities rely upon for their economic prosperity. It is fantastic to see our State Conservationist, Roylene Comes At Night, support this endeavor and to have USDA and NRCS agree with its value by including it in the IIJA investments. The boost that the Watershed Planning Project will bring to achieving our rescue mission cannot be overstated” explained Craig Simpson, Secretary-Manager of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District.
Next steps will include meetings between ECBID (the project’s sponsor), Grant County Conservation District, and NCRS to develop the watershed planning process, confirm roles and responsibilities. Then, it is anticipated ECBID and Grant County Conservation District will initiate outreach to landowners and other partners to inform them of process and opportunities for participation. These meetings will be announced via the Odes Watershed Program website and the League’s information channels.
To date, investments in the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program - transferring deep well irrigators drawing from a declining aquifer to sustainable Columbia Basin Project surface water - includes $127 million from the State of Washington, $63.5 million from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and $16.8 million in landowner-funded municipal bonds sold by the ECBID.