NRCS West Regional Conservationist Tours Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program

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Astor Boozer, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) regional conservationist for the West Region; Roylene Comes At Night, Washington state conservationist; and other NRCS staff toured the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWRP) with OGWRP partners. The half-day event was coordinated by the Columbia Basin Conservation District (CBCD).

State Senators Schoesler and Warnick, Representatives Dent and Dye, Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison, and representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, Columbia Basin Development League, and OGWRP landowners joined CBCD in welcoming NRCS leadership to the OGWRP. The delegation shared progress to date regarding the Odessa Aquifer rescue mission and expressed their appreciation for NRCS’s support of this critical effort.

NRCS has a mission to “deliver conservation solutions so agriculture producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world.” Among milestones in the work to rescue the Odessa Aquifer, ECBID was awarded NRCS Small Watershed Program funding for development of an NRCS-required OGWRP Watershed Plan in order to access additional NRCS funding for pump station and lateral design and construction. The CBCD will provide oversight of the watershed plan creation for ECBID. The Small Watershed Program, referred to as PL-566, requires the development of technically, environmentally, socially, and economically sound watershed project plans with actions scheduled for implementation over a specified period of years. Watershed project plans contain project actions, which are formally planned undertakings carried out within a specified geographic area by sponsors for the benefit of the general public.

Reclamation, Department of Ecology’s Office of Columbia River, and ECBID have worked together on the OGWRP since 2005. Operating within Reclamation programmatic requirements, the partners completed an environmental impact statement, feasibility analysis, engineering studies and cost estimates. The NRCS Small Watershed Program has its own unique set of planning and funding criteria that must be completed to determine the eligibility of the OGWRP for additional Small Watershed Program funding. Thankfully, a significant portion of the work already accomplished will meet the criteria of the Small Watershed Plan process so development of the OGWRP watershed plan can be expedited.

The Columbia Basin Project (CBP) is the water source for thousands of farmers and some municipalities and industrial stakeholders. While waiting for continued development of the CBP, decades ago, the Department of Ecology issued farmers temporary permits to use ground water to irrigate over 100,000 acres. The non-renewable Odessa aquifer declined and now threatens water availability for over 180,000 people and over a dozen rural communities including Lind, Odessa, Connell, Othello, Warden, Hatton, Wilson Creek, Moses Lake, and others. Multiple partners are working together to rescue the declining aquifer and preserve it for environmental and domestic water supply purposes.



Tuesday, 22 November 2022