Partners Travel to Washington, D.C. to Meet with Elected Officials and NRCS
Leadership, including mention of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program
For Immediate Release: April 14, 2023
Representatives from the Washington Conservation Partnership, including the Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD), the Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Washington traveled to Washington D.C. late last month to meet with federal elected officials, staff, and NRCS leadership to discuss support and future funding needs for the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWRP), among other priorities. The meetings were part of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) 2023 D.C. fly-in.
The partners that traveled to Washington D.C. included:
● Ryan Baye, Director of Member and Legislative Services with WACD
● Doug Rushton, WACD National Director
● Daryl Williams, WSCC Commissioner - Chair
● Cherie Kearney, WSCC Commissioner - Governor Appointee Representative
● Larry Cochran, WSCC Commissioner - Eastern Washington Representative
● Michael Crowder, Immediate Past President of NACD
Additionally, Keith Griswold, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs joined as the subject matter expert to answer any questions that came up.
"Our team was pleased to meet with several members of Washington’s Congressional delegation including Rep. Dan Newhouse, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, and Rep. Derek Kilmer. The Odessa Project is a priority for many in our state and was a cornerstone of our conversations as we advocate for the necessary programs and funding needs,” explained Ryan Baye, Director of Member and Legislative Services from WACD.
Local partners, including the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID), the Columbia Basin Conservation District (CBCD), and the Columbia Basin Development League (CBDL) worked to prepare an information packet that provides current project details. The information can be found below and was shared with the delegation during the scheduled meetings and more broadly with NRCS leadership.
Michael Crowder, Immediate Past President of NACD, General Manager of Barker Ranch in West Richland, and Benton County CD Supervisor, hand-delivered the OGWRP packets to D.C. Notably, Mr. Crowder was able to provide the OGWRP information to NRCS Chief Cosby, USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, and FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux.
Mr. Crowder shared, “Chief Cosby is aware of the project and looks forward to visiting it in the near future.”
Photo: Michael Crowder, Immediate Past President of NACD
Following the NACD D.C. Fly-in, CBCD and ECBID, on behalf of the OGWRP partners extended a formal invitation to NRCS Chief Cosby to visit the OGWRP Watershed Planning Project in Washington state. At the time of this article, we are eagerly awaiting his response.
OGWRP is a regional effort to implement the Odessa Subarea Special Study FEIS (2012), which is building the necessary infrastructure for farmers to exchange valid, state-issued Odessa groundwater rights for Columbia Basin Project water to rescue a declining aquifer.
In March 2022, the OGWRP was approved by USDA-NRCS for watershed planning under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-566). Once the watershed plan is approved, NRCS funding through PL-566 for the design and construction of the remaining pump stations and laterals to convert an additional 70,000 acres from deep well irrigation to Columbia Basin Project water. It is critical that PL-566 is not only in the next Farm Bill but is also funded at the levels needed for the OGWRP (~$400 million) and other PL-566 projects.
In December 2022, several partners began the PL-566 watershed planning effort as part of the OGWRP project, now known as the OGWRP Watershed Planning Project. The funding for this effort has been made available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and PL-566.
The allocation of federal funding comes through USDA-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 help develop the watershed plan.
Partners in the watershed planning effort include the NRCS, Bureau of Reclamation, Dept. of Ecology’s Office of Columbia River, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, CBCD, and ECBID, with tremendous support from elected officials, the Columbia Basin Development League, and local producers.
Contact: Kristina Ribellia, CBCD, (509) 765-9618, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Sara Higgins, CBDL, (509) 782-9442, email@example.com
Contact: Jennifer Korfiatis, ECBID, (509) 669-6979, Jennifer.Korfiatis@ecbid.org