Odessa Farmers Seek
by Matthew Weaver
“We are tapping as much funding as is needed to build these systems.
“We’re going as big as they’re allowing us to go.”
Farmers in the Odessa Subarea are seeking USDA funding to help pay for building delivery systems for water from the Columbia River.
The farmers are shifting to surface water because the aquifer they use for irrigation is running out.
The 2018 Farm Bill includes $10 million from USDA for infrastructure, said Michele Kiesz, Ritvzille, Wash., farmer and member of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program financial steering committee.
The grant is for one of the pumping plants on the 79.2 lateral pipeline, Kiesz said. That pipeline would send water to 12,413 acres of farmland and nine landowners.
Nineteen wells would be replaced, representing more than 12 billion gallons of aquifer water per year, Keisz said.
The pipeline is projected to cost roughly $34 million.
“With state and federal funds, we’re hoping to buy it down significantly,” state Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, said.
The money would come through the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. A $10 million match would be required.
The state Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River is funding a grant writer to seek more money.
Updates are provided weekly via Zoom, Kiesz said. They include the landowners along the lateral, the Columbia Basin Development League, the Grant County Conservation District, legislators and county commissioners. Roughly 40 people are on the financial steering committee, Kiesz said.
“It’s going to be a very robust application because we have such great partners,” Dye said.
The 79.2 lateral pipeline is a pilot project under the NRCS Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, or PL-566. The steering committee has been working with USDA to have the entire project included under PL-566, Kiesz said. That would entail 90% funding from USDA, with landowners responsible for 10% of the funding, she said.
“We are tapping as much funding as is needed to build these systems,” Kiesz said. “We’re going as big as they’re allowing us to go.”
The application deadline is Nov. 30. Kiesz expects to hear by the end of December.
The application period for another pipeline under RCPP opens up in December. The committee will apply for another $10 million grant, Kiesz said.
Organizers also hope to include the second half of the Columbia Basin Project under the PL-566 watershed program, Kiesz said. The project delivers water to 671,000 acres of farmland, roughly 65% of the 1.03 million acres originally planned.
The funding is locked in under the Farm Bill, she said.
“We’re going to move as fast as we can to get as much done before the next Farm Bill comes into play,” she said.
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