Group Seeks Ways to Fund Water Projectsby Matthew Weaver
Capital Press, October 20, 2011
Gathering to offer updates on studies, Weber Siphon
The Columbia Basin Development League is looking for ways to pay for water projects in the region.
In the past, the federal government financed U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water projects, with the beneficiaries repaying the cost over time, said Mike Schwisow, director of government relations for the league. With the federal government facing a budget crunch, proponents of new projects are looking at other options.
The league holds its annual meeting beginning at 1 p.m. Nov. 1 at Big Bend Community College's ATEC Building in Moses Lake, Wash.
James Ziglar, senior counsel with energy, environment and natural resources law firm Van Ness Feldman, and Wolfgang Opitz, assistant Washington state treasurer, will deliver presentations on state and federal water project financing.
The league will also provide an update on the Odessa Subarea Special Study conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology. The study is designed to help bring water from the Columbia River to farmers who now use wells to irrigate. The aquifer is declining in much of the area.
A draft environmental impact statement was released in 2010. The final report will be submitted to the bureau's regional director in Boise in early 2012, Schwisow said.
"Right now, we are in very uncertain times nationally, and we don't know if what's happened in the past is what we're going to be looking at," he said. "We're probably going to have to chart a new path."
Other updates will include the Weber Siphon, which will be in operation during the 2012 irrigation season. The $20 million project will eliminate a water delivery bottleneck in the East Low Canal near Moses Lake.
The siphon will also allow delivery of a small amount of water to groundwater pumpers in the Odessa Subarea.
The bureau is also negotiating contracts with the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District to begin delivering water to 10,000 acres of farmland. Once the contracts are signed, the irrigation district can identify the landowners who will receive the water.
Delivery will depend on the grower's ability to install systems to gain access to the water, Schwisow said.
Columbia Basin Development League: www.cbdl.org
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