East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID) Secretary-Manager Craig Simpson spoke as an invited panelist at the Family Farm Alliance annual conference. The event, titled A Wake Up Call for America; Why Farms, Water, and Food Matter, was held February 23-24, 2023 in Reno, NV.
Simpson joined other invited panelists to share details of the PL-566 Small Watershed Program. He was
joined by Craig Horrell (Central Oregon Irrigation District), Andy Mueller (Colorado River District, CO), and
Ben Shawcroft (Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, NV). The panel was hosted by Farmer Conservation
Alliance’s Raija Bushnell.
ECBID is currently leading the development of a Small Watershed Plan, which is part of the Odessa Groundwater
Replacement Program (OGWRP). This regional effort to implement the Odessa Subarea Special Study
FEIS (2012) is building the necessary infrastructure for farmers to exchange valid, state-issued Odessa
groundwater rights for Columbia Basin Project water. The funding for this effort has been made available through
the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-
The allocation of federal funding comes through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (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 Columbia Basin Conservation
District (CBCD) to facilitate the watershed plan. Farmer’s Conservation Alliance is assisting with the watershed
plan and compliance documents. Additionally, the District is involved in the development of 87,000 acres
associated with OGWRP and provides a reliable supply of water that irrigates the cropland that produces food
shipped domestically and internationally.
“Implementing the OGWRP has been decades in the making, and the District is proud to lead this effort with the
support of many partners. The OGWRP represents a great opportunity 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. The boost that a watershed plan will bring to achieving our collective goals
can’t be overstated, and we are hopeful that this will allow us to be competitive for additional funding to continue to
further develop this project,” explained Craig Simpson, Secretary-Manager of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation
Development of the Small Watershed Plan for the OGWRP began in December 2022.
The annual Family Farm Alliance conference is an opportunity for farmers and water professionals from
throughout the west to focus on topics of critical concern. Each year, a wide variety of speakers address the
issues that make a difference to irrigators. Members of Congress and their staff, Administration officials from the
Department of Interior, EPA and other federal agencies are regulars on the program.
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.