Nearly $40 million in federal stimulus money has been awarded for shovel-ready water-saving projects in two Lower Yakima Valley irrigation districts.
The money is part of a $120 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for improving Washington state's water infrastructure, said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement Thursday.
The grants will help each irrigation district convert their open ditch delivery systems to closed, or piped, systems that are pressurized as part of the conservation strategies for districts in the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, said Dawn Wiedmeier, project manager for the bureau's Yakima region.
Sunnyside's Jim Trull said the $20.5 million coming to his district will be spent enclosing their water system.
"This is great," said Trull. "The funds will enable us to accelerate what has been on the drawing board for a long time. What we planned to do in six or seven years we will be compressed into a couple of years."
Trull credited Wiedmeier for "pushing this thing along." Trull said a private contractor will be selected and ready to start work in the fall.
"And that's what was intended by this stimulus money," he added.
Most of Sunnyside's canals are unlined. Enclosing them will save water lost through leaks and evaporation, and pressurizing the water will eliminate other water losses.
The $20.5 million is nearly three times Sunnyside's annual budget of $7 million.
Wiedmeier said the $17.3 million for the Benton Irrigation District also is part of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project and will be used to enclose canals.
"Details are being worked out on converting from open ditch to the closed pipe pressurized system," she said.
But some of the money will be used to build a new pumping station near Benton City, which will replace the current place where water is taken out about 71 miles upstream near Parker south of Yakima.
Wiedmeier said moving the withdrawal point downstream will be good for fish.
She said construction on the new pumping station could begin in August.
"Improving the safety and efficiency of our state's water system is absolutely critical for economic growth in Washington state," said Murray, a senior member of the Senate committees that fund and oversee energy and water development. "This recovery funding will create jobs, boost the economy, and is a strong investment our state's infrastructure."
Money also was assigned to Columbia Basin Potholes supplemental feed, $5 million; Columbia Basin Weber siphon complex, $50 million; Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, $18.1 million; Grand Coulee, Columbia Basin Project, $1.4 million; Roza Irrigation District Yakima project, $5 million; Columbia/Snake River habitat projects, $1.9 million.