Red Mountain property owners ready to bring Yakima River water to grape-growing region

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 29, 2013 

A majority of Red Mountain property owners told the Kennewick Irrigation District on Monday that they are ready to move ahead with plans to bring water from the Yakima River to their prime wine grape-growing land.

"It's fish or cut bait time, people," Paul Cross of RH2 Engineering of Richland told about 40 people during a Monday night meeting for property owners involved in the $17.2 million project.

"We are either going to do this or we are not," he said.

KID commissioners recently approved preparing the future site of the booster pumps and station for the project in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area between Richland and Benton City.

They met with property owners at Kiona Vineyards Winery in Benton City to get feedback and to update property owners on the progress of the project that will irrigate about 1,785 acres on Red Mountain, allowing more grapes to be planted.

Concern about the stability of the basalt near the intake station prompted Cross to recommend they start preparing the site early to determine the actual status of the rock.

Most of the 30,000 cubic yards of rock to be excavated will be removed as part of the first phase, Cross said. Some of that rock will be used for access roads.

That phase will cost about $800,000 to $1 million, and is included in the overall cost estimate, Cross said.

Construction should start March 19, he said.

Water will be drawn from the river at a new intake station and delivered through 42-inch steel pipes to a pump tower. Two reservoirs also will be built to hold about 400,000 and 100,000 gallons, respectively, Cross explained.

KID already has received the water right transfer, Cross said. There are 18 different environmental permits required for the project, and those were applied for in November and December. And a few have been received already.

Landowners will pay for the project using a local improvement district. KID is one of the landowners, with about 620 acres.

The current financial estimates include a 15 percent contingency, said Colleen Storms, KID treasurer.

The operational cost is projected to be $184 per acre including electricity, Storms said. The annual debt service would be about $676 per acre for 25 years.

Together, that would be an annual cost of about $860 per acre, Storms said.

Instead of paying debt service, property owners can choose to pay off the capital cost at $11,304 per acre, she said.

Most property owners said they weren't willing to increase the cost to bury the tanks for aesthetic purposes. Cross said the current estimates include landscaping and murals.

Grower Jim Holmes of West Richland said he doesn't see a return on investment for burying the tanks.

Kevin McGlynn of Seattle told the board that he'd like to see the design try to hide the water tower as much as possible. He represents property owners Red Mountain Ridgeline, Red Mountain Viticulture, Three Monkeys and Vitis Ventures.

He said they favor of the project, but, "We have one shot at this."

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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