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USDA Under Secretary Tours Odessa Ground Water Project

June 13, 2024

By: Katherine Trowbridge

The entire tour group pictured at the EL 47.5 Pump Station on Thursday, June 6.

“It was an incredible day that really displayed Under Secretary Bonnie’s support for the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Project (OGWRP),” shared Beth Siltala of the Columbia Basin Development League on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie’s visit to the project site on Thursday, June 6.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie stands with East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Secretary Manager, Craig Simpson at the Lind Coulee rest siphon.

The moving tour took a look at the 47.5 Pump Station and the 47.5 On-Farm, the Lind Coulee Siphon, and the newly started 86.4 project. Throughout the tour, conversations were held about both the OGWRP and the Columbia Basin Project.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie speaks with Representative Mary Dye.

Joining the tour was Representative Mary Dye, a fourth generation farmer in Eastern WA, who likes to take her passion for the land into her role as state representative. Dye is also excited for the momentum of these projects that are underway to support area farmers and our most valuable water resources.

The tour was part of several efforts to secure funding for the OGWRP. Partners in the project also joined in the tour including the Columbia Basin Development League (CBDL), East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, and the Columbia Basin Conservation District.

Sara Higgins, Executive Director of the Columbia Basin Development League, also expressed her excitement as the tour came to a close. Higgins stated that the day was “more than we’d hoped for” and that she looks forward to increased partnerships with USDA. She shared with the Franklin County Graphic that, “The support shown today from Washington, D.C. was phenomenal.”

The tour came on the cusp of the recent ground breaking ceremony and as momentum on the project is at a high note with construction well underway on the 86.4 project.

The Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program (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. In 2022, the OGWRP was funded for planning under the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) small watershed program. Once the plan is complete and approved, NRCS will request funding to design and construct the remaining pump stations and laterals needed to complete the OGWRP. This project builds on past significant investments by the State of Washington, Reclamation, ECBID, and producers.

There will be more updates on this project as this is an ever evolving story.

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