MOSES LAKE — The next step in bringing more water to the Odessa subarea was the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and state Department of Ecology.
The issue of the declining water source drew about 75 people to the Columbia Basin Development League’s annual conference Tuesday to hear more about the EIS.
The audience included farmers, business leaders and elected officials interested in the area’s future growth and economic development.
Chuck Carnohan, a bureau project manager, lead a panel discussion about the EIS.
The EIS details nine unfunded water delivery options to areas of the Columbia Basin receiving groundwater from deep wells.
The plan is to replace groundwater with surface water from the Columbia River.
Four options entail versions of a full groundwater replacement, while four other options involve a partial groundwater replacement.
One of the options is a “no action alternative.”
The costs start at $841.6 million for the cheapest partial replacement option to deliver water to about 57,000 acres.
This option would be done by expanding on the capacity of the East Low Canal south of Interstate 90.
The most expensive option costs $3.3 billion to water 102,600 acres by building a new East High Canal system north of I-90.
Carnohan answered a question about the environmental impacts comparing a full groundwater replacement to a partial groundwater replacement.
A partial replacement has the fewest environmental impacts, as the segmentation of the habitat already occurred with the building of the original infrastructure.
There are concerns abut nesting grieves on Banks Lake as well as the fluctuation of the reservoir.
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is concerned about exposing toxic sediments from Lake Roosevelt, which came from Canadian mining operations.
Jim Blanchard, a special projects manager with the bureau’s Ephrata office, said there is a perception that people would quit coming to Banks Lake for recreation if the lake was drawn down.
A drawdown would be more dramatic on Banks Lake than on Lake Roosevelt, he said.
He said 78 million acre feet of water per year is going past Grand Coulee Dam, which he considered a relatively small amount of water.
Carnohan spoke about the proposed Rocky Coulee Reservoir. He called it a working reservoir to irrigate with, not to recreate on.
He also spoke to the condition of some of the deep wells. Some wells are more than 2,000 feet deep and are not dependable. The quality of water is also going down.
He emphasized the project was not an aquifer recharge project, rather, it replaces groundwater with surface water.
Audience questions touched on the future of people living north of I-90 and how a benefit cost analysis was arrived at.
One man who didn’t identify himself said the cost would be to the whole country when they lost their domestic water supply.
Even with the delivery of more water, Adams County Commissioner Rudy Plager asked why figures detailing industrial benefits were flat at $11.8 million for all options.
Carnohan said they calculated benefits in that area, but didn’t pick up enough to make a substantive difference.
“Our staff is going to be hounding those guys to look deeper into the municipal industrial component,” he said.
Another man asked if the total benefits represented jobs and was told “yes” by Carnohan. The figures also represent employment and lost income.
Farmer Jake Wollmann Jr., of Warden, asked about the figures.
“Are they just figures or do they actually reflect reality as we see in this society?” he asked.
Carnohan said he thought it went back to principles and guidelines.
He explained it’s been placed on the bureau concerning how they analyze the impacts, costs and benefit with projects.
“Whether that is reality, I couldn’t tell you,” Carnohan said in part.
Very few projects have been constructed since the “pngs” were put in place in 1986 when James Watt was in office, he said.
Pngs is short for economic and environmental principles and guidelines for water and related land resources implementation studies, he later said.
Carnohan said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with revising the pngs.
The document’s release starts a 60 day comment period, which concludes on Dec. 31.
Oral or written comments can be submitted at two public hearings in Moses Lake and Coulee Dam, or via e-mail, fax or regular mail. The comment addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org for e-mail; 509-454-5650 for faxed comments and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1917 Marsh Rd., Yakima, 98901-2058 for regular mail comments.
The first hearing is set for Nov. 17 at Coulee Dam Town Hall, 300 Lincoln Ave., Coulee Dam.
The second hearing is planned for Nov. 18 at Big Bend Community College’s ATEC Center, 7611 Bolling St. NE, Moses Lake.
Both hearings are from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
To obtain copies of the report, call 509-575-5838, ext. 603, or visit www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/ucao_misc/odessa/drafteis/draft-eis-odessa.pdf.