In May, the Columbia Basin Development League (CBDL) coordinated a DC fly-in to advocate for the Columbia Basin Project and the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP). In a demonstrated partnership for OGWRP, the League was joined by Columbia Basin Conservation District Executive Director, Kristina Ribellia, who rounded out the traveling delegation that also included League Board Chair, Dale Pomeroy, Sr. Ag Operations Specialist, Michael Dixon of Lamb Weston, League Executive Director Sara Higgins, and League Director of Government Relations, Mike Schwisow.
Video: See partners in action while advocating for OGWRP in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of two packed days, the League's group met with Congressman Newhouse, representatives from the offices of Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congresswomen McMorris Rodgers and Gluesenkamp Perez, NRCS Associate Chief and Director Astrid Martinez and Regional Conservationist Astor Boozer, Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Mike Brain and Regional Director Jennifer Carrington, and professional committee staff for the Senate and House Ag Committees as well as the House Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries.
May 8, 2023 - (left to right) Sara Higgins (CBDL), Dale Pomeroy (CBDL), Kristina Ribellia (CBCD), Mike Schwisow (CBDL), and Michael Dixon (Lamb Weston) in Washington, D.C. advocating for funding to address the declining aquifer.
Below were some of the key messages related to OGWRP that were requested and discussed:
As the next Farm Bill is developed, support and improve the NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention and Operations program (WFPO, aka PL-566) to meet needs:
o Reauthorize the Farm Bill in a timely manner.
o Modernize the WFPO program to streamline the review process for Watershed
Plans and provide more transparency from NRCS about its administration of the program.
o Raise the statutory cap for required Congressional approval of projects from $25 million to $50 million.
o Increase annual mandatory funding by $25 million to a total of $75 million annually for the WFPO program.
o Prioritize annual WFPO funding towards projects that provide multi-benefit to agricultural producers; environment; and local, rural communities.
o Give statutory authority to NRCS State Conservationists to review and determine best course of action for watershed plans and projects that will be implemented in their respective states.
o Reduce administrative burdens and increase effectiveness of the RCPP by adopting the granting and contracting processes of the successful Conservation Innovation Grant’s On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program, simplifying eligibility, and expediting fund delivery to projects.
o Ensure an adequate and durable funding source is available for this critical activity. Additionally, improvements to the Technical Service Provider certification process should be considered.
o Seek addition of Irrigation Conservation Standard Practices (CSP) to those currently meeting the eligibility criteria for participation in the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Program. Funding provided through the Inflation Reduction Act would then be available to the CBP Irrigation Districts for conservation activities.
Support Congressionally Directed Spending and Community Project Funding requests made by Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers for OGWRP Bridge improvement projects in Grant and Adams Counties.
Support language in the 2024 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill that urges Reclamation to prioritize OGWRP.
Provide $13 million in FY24 funds for OGWRP construction that is not subject to reimbursement since the system is a temporary, public interest project to address aquifer depletion and job retention.
In addition to these messages, the group also thanked Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congresspersons McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse for their continued support of OGWRP and the Columbia Basin Project and the group advocated for a number of priorities for the broader Columbia Basin Project.
Contact: Sara Higgins, CBDL, (509) 782-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Kristina Ribellia, CBCD, (509) 765-9618, email@example.com