It’s a project that’s consumed much of Central Washington for over 70 years, but unfortunately it shows no immediate signs of wrapping up.
The Columbia Basin Development Project is the effort to irrigate one million acres of farm land. And while much of the projects is complete and irrigation canals are providing much needed water, roughly 25% remains unfinished and unfunded.
Vicky Scharlau, Executive Director of the Columbia Basin Development League says that lack of completion has had a ripple effect across the area. She said currently, 100,000 acres were given permission by Washington Department of Ecology to draw their water from a well which pulls from the Odessa Aquifer, which has created a new problem.
“Now we’re finding many years later that that aquifer, which is also the source of water for many communities all the way from Warden and Othello, the southern Moses Lake area, so all of those, the farmers and the land owners houses and communities and all pulling from the same aquifer. Well it’s a non-recharge aquifer, so now we have an environmental crisis on our hands.”
Scharlau stressed the Columbia Basin Development Project is not just a farmer issue, but an issue that impacts the way of life for thousands across Central Washington, wildlife and much more. She emphasized that the situation is currently a crisis, and won’t get any better if action is not taken.
“Because by the time we build the infrastructure it will still take years, so if we don’t hurry up and do something, we’ve got wells that are going dry now, and have been for the past several years. So we are desperately trying to find the words to light a fire under the appropriate politicians to make sure they understand the magnitude and importance of this.”
Scharlau added because of federal cuts, the largest Reclamation Project in the U.S. remains unfinished.
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