Warden area celebrates opening of new irrigation pump system partially funded from state capital budget

Nearly 50 people were in attendance Thursday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of a new water delivery system about seven miles northeast of Warden. The new EL 47.5 pump station delivery system will provide irrigation water to nearly 10,500 acres of farmland. It is part of a much larger, ambitious project to provide surface irrigation across areas of the Columbia Basin where groundwater supplies continue to diminish.

Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, was one of several state lawmakers who helped to secure $5 million in the state capital budget of the $20.8 million project for the pump station. The remaining funding came through the sale of municipal bonds by the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District.

“This is the first new major delivery system of about nine planned so far to bring more water to those areas in the Odessa Subarea Aquifer as part of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program,” said Dye, who serves on the House Capital Budget Committee.

The Columbia Basin Project, authorized by Congress in 1945, was intended to provide surface irrigation water to 1,029,000 acres. However, only 680,000 acres are now served. Farmers and communities above the Odessa Subarea Aquifer have been using deep water wells to pump groundwater to the surface. However, many of those wells are drying up. Dye has been working to secure funding both at the state and federal level to advance the project.

“We've already helped to fund capacity expansion of the East Low Canal, which is the main water conveyance system into the Columbia Basin from Lake Roosevelt. Another 10-million dollars of capital construction funds have provided for two large siphons in the Kansas Prairie region near Othello. And now, this new pumping plant will deliver surface water to farms, which will relieve the pressure on groundwater supplies in the aquifer that nearly 30 communities rely upon for drinking water,” said Dye.

East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Manager Craig Simpson says the large pumps at the station push water uphill from the East Low Canal through 8.8 miles of pipe, providing irrigation up to six miles from the canal.

Construction began in 2016 and the pump station was completed last fall, but began delivering water this spring. Landowners in the Odessa Subarea Aquifer who have a water right for deep water wells, if eligible, may have that right converted by the Department of Ecology for surface replacement water from the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District's Columbia Basin water supply.

“The intent is to take pressure off the declining aquifer and save that groundwater for other municipal and domestic purposes that serve the area. It's expected to reduce groundwater depletion by nearly 73-million gallons a day,” noted Dye.

“The opening of this new pumping station is a significant milestone in our long-term efforts to supply enough water to preserve our local farms and the jobs they provide, and save nearly 30 communities that rely on the Odessa Subarea Aquifer for drinking water,” Dye added.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of Bill Carroll, The Grower's Guide, Colfax.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
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