North I-90 Odessa Aquifer Project funds of utmost importance

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A few days ago it was revealed that through the efforts of Senators Judy Warnick, Jim Honeyford and Mark Schoesler, funding has been included in the Washington Senate’s 2019-2021 Capital Budget for the North I-90 Odessa Aquifer Groundwater Replacement Project.

The Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGRP) as a whole aims to provide surface water from the Columbia Basin Project (CBP) to replace groundwater. Irrigation wells in the Odessa Subarea have been declining for several years now, which puts not only the region’s farmers at serious economic risk, but the entire region as well.

The North I-90 Project is under the umbrella of the OGRP and is seeking to build a surface water irrigation system north of I-90 and east of Moses Lake, which, according to estimates, would provide much-needed water to several thousand acres of land. The plan is to construct a new canal turnout infrastructure, a large canal pump station, booster pump stations, and 6-8 miles of pipe to provide the surface water to landowners. The overall goal is to replace deep well irrigation in the declining areas of the aquifer. The funding included in the Senate’s Capital Budget is for $15 million and is earmarked to assist in designing, engineering and building the surface water irrigation system.

In a region that relies heavily on its agricultural producers, the project is of utmost importance. In a show of solidarity, over 20 local towns, businesses, organizations and stakeholders sent out a form letter to the Legislature in February expressing their support for the North I-90 Project. “This project would have very positive impacts on the rural economies of many small communities in eastern Washington as well as help to stop the decline of the Odessa Aquifer,” reads a key line in the letters.

A 2017 study conducted by Washington State University found a 25 percent decline in potato acreage in the land atop the Odessa Aquifer between 2005 and 2015, which can be attributed to a decline in water quality and quantity. Potatoes are one of the numerous crops throughout the region that have been, and will continue to be, impacted by the declining aquifer. This equates to millions of dollars of lost revenue and even more significant impacts on farmers who grow the crops.

The Washington House of Representatives needs to accept the Senate’s funding request in order for the $15 million to be obtained. Negotiations are happening now and we hope the House carefully considers the potential implications to our region (present and future) if the funding is not ultimately obtained. We encourage readers to reach out to their local legislators and voice their support for the funding.

— Editorial board

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