Everyone needs food, which takes farmers with water to grow it for us.
Providing water for farmers is a tough hurdle. When plans are made to divert water to irrigate farm land, the discussion tends to end with the billions of dollars in cost and decades it will take to do it.
Without water, there is no farming.
A federal plan by the Bureau of Reclamation would help farmers in the Odessa Subaquifer area by bringing water to about 45,000 acres, south of Interstate 90 with construction starting in 2017 and costing taxpayers about $1 billion to modify the East-Low Canal to provide surface water collected from the Columbia River. It is projected to cost about $10,500 per acre.
The Columbia-Snake River Irrigation Association came up with an idea to provide surface water for up to 75,000 acres for less money and with an initial construction date of 2013.
Their plan is for land north of I-90, but the association believes it would help move the federal plan forward and help provide relief on the wells being used to tap the aquifer. Wells north of I-90 would be abandoned and reduce the draw on the aquifer. This would benefit the users south of I-90.
The work to deliver water would integrate needed components for the future federal program for delivering water to lane south of I-90.
The association is asking the state to invest $20 million of the Columbia River Program funds and secure $250 million in bonds to pay for retrofitting canal pumping stations and the water system delivery, all to move water from Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt to land east of Moses Lake, north of I-90.
Landowners would repay the bonds over the next 20 years. The cost would be roughly $4,500 per acre.
Construction could start next year and be finished in two years.
The benefits would be a great return on the investment. It is estimated the project could return about $244 million annual household income from the project.
It would generate about 860 construction jobs and roughly 1,650 jobs through indirect employment.
It's rare when a group finds a way to increase jobs and income to bolster the economy for a lower cost than anticipated. For about a quarter of the federal project cost, it's possible to provide water to nearly twice the land. This is not smart, but genius.
To add nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to household incomes in our state - in our Columbia Basin - is incredible. That means good paying jobs.
We hope everyone can see how brilliant this option is for everyone and get behind it It would be a shame to let this opportunity float on by.
- Editorial board