Ag And Rural Caucus Call to Meeting, Feb. 2022
Odessa Groundwater Replacement
6:30 Thursday 17 February 2022
Meeting ID: 893 6923 0225
Passcode: 722257 +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Making Good on a Promise
Irrigation and farming are seen as the driver for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement program…making good on the promise to provide surface water to farmers made at the very beginning of the Columbia Basin Project.
Well, add municipal water supplies to the causalities of our earlier miscalculations. The draw down of the aquifer due to irrigation has bled over to the water supplying towns and cities in the region. Static levels have declined. Wells have been abandoned. Water quality has become sketchy. Ten years ago (2012) the Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area study gave us until 2030: “we find that at least half of the municipalities in GWMA will likely not meet their water production targets by approximately 2030.”
Water shortages are notorious for dividing communities. In this case, though, water is bringing irrigators and towns together through the happy circumstance that farmers are also citizens. The Department of Health teamed with the Department of Commerce to convene what has become the Columbia Basin Sustainable Water Coalition. Ben Serr from Commerce started the process and Claire Miller from Commerce is leading a group of towns, counties, conservation districts, water provisioners, water consultants and engineers from around the four-county area (FLAG: Franklin, Lincoln, Adams, Grant). The Coalition is continuing the GWMA work to document water table decline, coordinate with the Odessa Ground Water Replacement project, and push communities throughout the area to plan both local and region-wide solutions.
Harold Crose knows this territory. He knows how farmers and their communities are linked. And he knows that water scarcity in times of drought and depletion can destroy community.
Getting Close, or Still Planning?
Last fall, Harold Crose, our presenter on the 17th, sounded tentative about completing the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Project. He was talking about the NRCS PL-566 program. “What I am calling the “pivot point” is when Washington, D.C. gives a blessing and says the Odessa Aquifer is a watershed project…When that hits, that’s the point you can say ‘We are approved for the planning phase” (Capital Press, 15 November 2021).
What? Does Harold mean that DOE’s $120 million were spent without a plan? And the claim that OGWRP was “shovel ready” was hot air? And those of us who are anticipating the completion – not the planning – of OGWRP are hopeless optimists?
Let’s ask Harold. He will open the door to a very complicated set of interrelationships between federal agencies (e.g., Bureau of Reclamation, NRCS), state agencies (Department of Ecology, Office of the Columbia River), “non-federal agencies (e.g., East Columbia Irrigation District), private advocacy groups (Columbia Basin Development League), and one hundred farmers growing crops, paying taxes and local suppliers and hiring workers.
He will tell us what PL-566 really is and why it is important. He may let us know the meaning of RCPP (Regional Conservation Partnership Program) and what it has to do with OGWRP. If we are really nice, he will school us on EL 79.2.
Don’t let the complications deter you from joining the conversation. The end point is simple and very important: Stop the drain of the groundwater aquifer that serves some 180,000 people in Central Washington. This is an urgent water supply and water quality issue.
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Ag and Rural Caucus of State Democratic Central Committee
Our mailing address is: Ag and Rural Caucus 2921 Mud Creek Rd Waitsburg, WA 99361