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circular logo used by the East Columbia Basin Irrigation district with a canal full of water underneath a sun
A dozen leaders from across the Columbia Basin and Washington State came together in Moses Lake Monday morning to have a roundtable discussion about water management issues facing Columbia Basin growers and included the Columbia Basin Project and the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program.

“We need to figure out which one of these avenues are the best,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, (D–Wash.).

Points of conversation were about the importance of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program, which was called an “aquifer rescue mission” by Columbia Basin Development League Executive Director Sara Higgins.

“The big question that is not just ours, but is now across the nation, is food security,” said Higgins. “And we see the Columbia Basin Project as a solution. We have the ability to not only continue production here but actually increase production and address some of those needs that are now threatening in the southwest.”

Part of the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program was constructing the EL 47.5 Delivery System and Pump Station. It was finished in 2020 and currently replaces 8,521 acres of deep-well pumping from the Odessa Aquifer by pumping water from the East Low Canal to Columbia Basin farms. It is located about 10 miles northeast of Warden.

The group also got to tour the new pump house, not just a chance to talk about it. They visited the canals that wind through the land south of I-90 and the size of one of the siphon barrels used to carry water. Through the tour, the group learned about the size and impact of the delivery system.

Johnson Agriprises owner Orman Johnson, a business owner and farmer in the Columbia Basin, spoke about how over the years they have had to adjust and carefully decide what they are growing in order to conserve water because wells are drying up.

“We’re really looking forward to – although I won’t be there – probably my management from the next generation where they actually have more water than they need,” said Johnson.

The other leaders at the table were East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Secretary-Manager Craig Simpson, Port of Warden Commissioner Dale Pomeroy, Columbia Basin Conservation District Executive Director Kristina Ribellia, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Development Coordinator Jon Erickson, Washington Potato Commission Government Affairs Director Matt Harris, City of Moses Lake City Manager Allison Williams, Adams County Commissioner Dan Blankenship, Bureau of Reclamation Ephrata Field Office Manager Marc Maynard and Department of Ecology Office of Columbia River Financial and Projects Section Manager Melissa Downes.

“We have a lot of opportunities here working together and what we are hoping to do is elevate the urgency and demonstrate the community collaboration that we have going on here today,” said Higgins.

Rebecca Pettingill may be reached at rpettingill@columbiabasinherald.com.

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