OGWRP Watershed Planning Project
NRCS intends to adopt Reclamation’s
Odessa Subarea Special Study Final Environmental Impact Statement
Contact: Jules Riley, NRCS
Water Resources Planning Specialist
Phone: (509) 323-2941
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – (November 1, 2023) – The Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adopting the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) 2012 Odessa Subarea Special Study Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) produced in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology).
With the NRCS adoption of the FEIS and issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD) that concurs with Reclamation’s selected alternative, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID) — in partnership with Reclamation, Ecology, and NRCS — will streamline the development of a Watershed Plan under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program authorized by Public Law 83-566 by utilizing the FEIS environmental compliance document already produced. With an Authorized Watershed Plan, ECBID will be eligible to pursue NRCS federal funding to support the phased implementation of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program.
Located in Central Washington, ECBID is the largest irrigation 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 (CBP). The FEIS analyzed the potential to replace groundwater irrigation on up to 102,600 acres of land in the Odessa Subarea with surface water from the CBP.
The Odessa Subarea aquifer is experiencing significant declines in groundwater levels. Domestic, commercial, municipal, and industrial uses, as well as water quality, are also affected. Many of the groundwater wells in the area are currently drilled to a depth of 800 to 1,000 feet, with some as deep as 2,100 feet. Some wells in the area have been reported out of production. Drilling deeper wells is not feasible because deeper water may not be available, may be potentially unusable, or may be too expensive to access. As a result of this decline, the ability of producers to irrigate their crops is at risk.
The FEIS and Reclamation’s Amended ROD identified Alternative 4A: Partial Modified-Replacement-Banks with Limited Spring Diversion Scenario as the selected alternative. Under this alternative, groundwater irrigation on 70,000 acres of land in the Odessa Subarea would be replaced in a one-to-one replacement with CBP water of which 164,000 acre-feet would be new Columbia River diversions. Since Reclamation published the FEIS in 2012, the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program, a consortium of local, state, and federal partners, has worked towards phased implementation of Alternative 4A.
NRCS invites agencies and individuals who have special expertise, legal jurisdiction, or interest in the NRCS adoption of the FEIS for the Odessa Subarea Special Study to participate and comment.
The adoption of the FEIS and development of the Watershed Plan under Public Law 83-566 is sponsored by ECBID with funding and technical support from NRCS. Columbia Basin Conservation District, Farmers Conservation Alliance, and Parametrix are assisting ECBID and NRCS with the planning process.
NRCS’s Notice of Intent to adopt the FEIS is available online at https://www.ogwrp-programs.org/watershed-plan and at the NRCS website: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/washington/nrcs-washington-public-notices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published a Notice of Availability for the FEIS redistribution and public review in the Federal Register online at https://www.federalregister.gov/agencies/environmental-protection-agency.
Public comments may be submitted until 30 days after the Notice of Availability is published in the Federal Register, which is estimated to be on December 8. Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, submitted online at https://www.ogwrp-programs.org/watershed-plan, submitted via phone at (541) 716-6085, or mailed to Farmers Conservation Alliance, 102 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031.
NRCS will review public, agency, and tribal comments in accordance with National Environmental Compliance Handbook Section 610.83. If a supplemental environmental compliance document is not required, NRCS will issue a ROD after the required 30-day comment period. The ROD will address comments made during the comment period and will be publicly available. Should NRCS decide that a new or supplemental environmental compliance document is warranted, NRCS will issue further public notice as appropriate.
Additional information is available online at https://www.ogwrp-programs.org/watershed-plan or the NRCS Washington public notice webpage at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/washington/nrcs-washington-public-notices.
Encontrará más información en línea en https://www.ogwrp-programs.org/watershed-plan o en la página web de avisos públicos del NRCS de Washington en https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/washington/nrcs-washington-public-notices.
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Overview of Watershed Planning in the Odessa Subarea
East Columbia Irrigation District (the District) is working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State Department of Ecology, Columbia Basin Conservation District, Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA), and other stakeholders to develop a Watershed Plan that supports irrigation modernization and provides local environmental benefits.
The proposed project would support implementation of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (OGWRP). Generally, the proposed project would:
Support and maintain existing agriculture within the District by exchanging valid state-issued Odessa groundwater rights for Columbia Basin Project surface water,
Reduce the depletion of the Odessa Subarea aquifer, which would support the area’s municipal water supply.
Public participation is essential to the environmental review process. It helps the District and agencies make informed decisions that consider the full range of environmental effects and alternative solutions.
The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program (PL 83-566)
The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, authorized by Congress in 1954. The purpose of this program is to provide technical and financial assistance to public entities for planning and implementing authorized projects that:
Improve water quality
Reduce soil erosion
Enhance fish and wildlife habitat
Create opportunities for hydroelectric power production
In order to qualify for funding from the program, irrigation districts must have:
An Authorized Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Evaluation, Assessment, or Impact Statement; and
Non-federal match funding
The purpose of this webpage is to provide the public with information about the development of a Watershed Plan for the Odessa Subarea and how to get involved in the planning process.