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NRCS Chief Tours Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program Watershed

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Terry Cosby joined approximately 30 invited guests for a tour of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWRP) on June 12, 2023.


Photo courtesy of ECBID.


The tour was jointly organized by the Columbia Basin Conservation District (CBCD) and the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID). OGWRP is a regional effort to implement the Odessa Subarea Special Study, which is building the necessary infrastructure for farmers to exchange valid, state-issued Odessa groundwater rights for Columbia Basin Project water.


The tour began at the Washington Potato Commission headquarters in Moses Lake and moved to the EL47.5 pumping plant which is managed by ECBID. From there, guests toured acreage served by the EL47.5 system, the Lind Coulee Siphon, and the EL80.6 pumping station location before returning to the ECBID board room to debrief.


Besides Chief Cosby, dignitaries on the tour included Astor Boozer, USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) regional conservationist for the West Region; Roylene Comes At Night, Washington State conservationist; Washington State Representatives Tom Dent, Mary Dye and Joe Schmick, Washington State Senator Judy Warnick, Derek Sandison of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Tom Tebb of Washington State Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River, landowners, and leadership of the host organizations.


Photo courtesy of ECBID.


"The OGWRP represents a critical effort to rescue an aquifer from decline by finding an alternative Columbia Basin Project water supply for existing withdrawals. This will secure more water for our local communities and ensure sustainable agricultural production that many of those same communities rely upon for their economic prosperity,” explained Craig Simpson, Secretary-Manager of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District.

In 2022, several partners initiated the OGWRP watershed planning effort.


The funding for this effort was made available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-566). The allocation of federal funding comes through the NRCS to ECBID to develop a watershed plan that will assist in obtaining future funding for the design and construction of the OGWRP’s remaining large infrastructure projects. ECBID has partnered with the CBCD to facilitate the watershed plan. This Watershed Planning Project is building on significant financial contributions.


Since 2004, the State of Washington has invested more than $126 million, and the Bureau of Reclamation more than $45 million, in the development and early implementation of the OGWRP. The ECBID has also sold $16.8 million of landowner- funded municipal bonds to fund the construction of OGWRP delivery facilities.


“NRCS is playing an increasingly important role in implementing solutions for the declining aquifer and specifically the OGWRP. Chief Cosby’s visit to OGWRP illustrates the agency's commitment to advancing efforts and we couldn’t be more grateful for their support,” explained Kristina Ribellia, Executive Director of the Columbia Basin Conservation District and one of the organizers of the tour.

In April, the Washington State Legislature passed a capital budget that includes $32.8M in appropriations to assist in the planning, designing, engineering, development coordination, and construction of the OGWRP. This funding will provide irrigation water to the acreage located within the Odessa Subarea Special Study. Specifically, the appropriation will be used to advance design and construction of selected eligible delivery systems in the ECBID service district and will reduce the current normalized cost to landowners. The appropriation also includes $850,000 for the Bureau of Reclamation for administration and necessary design review.


The Columbia Basin Conservation District (CBCD) is a consolidation of several conservation districts that have served Grant County and the irrigated portions of Adams County since 1945. CBCD provides technical and financial assistance to help implement voluntary practices that conserve our natural resources. Like other conservation districts across the county, CBCD has a unique and close working relationship with NRCS. Together, they are able to leverage resources and increase on- the-ground conservation.


Located in central Washington State, the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District is the largest district in the state, with authorization to irrigate 472,000 acres. Currently, 169,000 acres are developed and managed by 4,500 landowners within the federal Columbia Basin Project. Additionally, the District is involved in the development of 87,000 acres associated with OGWRP. The District provides a reliable supply of water that irrigates the cropland that produces food shipped domestically and internationally.


Read more about the tour in the Columbia Basin Herald. Learn more →

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Contact: Jennifer Korfiatis, ECBID, (509) 669-6979, Jennifer.Korfiatis@ecbid.org

Contact: Kristina Ribellia, CBCD, (509) 765-9618, kristina-ribellia@columbiabasincd.org




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