The city of Pasco may be able to secure water rights that could be committed to a major industrial user.
Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield told Port of Pasco commissioners Thursday that the city may receive those water rights from the state Department of Ecology after it finishes processing applications for the Lake Roosevelt draw-down project.
The Department of Ecology expects to have unallocated water left when the permitting process is complete, and Pasco has been told it is on the top of the list for that water after the original applications, Crutchfield said.
The water would be allocated to Pasco through the so-called quad-cities Columbia River water right it shares with Kennewick, Richland and West Richland, Crutchfield said. That could happen sometime this year.
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Crutchfield said the city would like to have water on hand that could be committed to a large industrial project, and not be hamstrung from attracting that kind of development because of potential lack of water.
Attracting more industrial development is one of the city's goals. That would help increase the city's tax base.
For example, Pasco's property value is at about $52,000 per capita, while Richland's is just under $100,000 per capita. Crutchfield said Pasco doesn't have the commercial development Kennewick and Richland have.
The city has found enough water to fill the 1.2 billion-gallon deficit between city use and water rights that was created when development in the last decade overtook the city, Crutchfield said.
About 782.4 million gallons of water was freed up for Pasco when the state Department of Ecology increased the percentage of water it acknowledges that the Tri-Cities and West Richland return to the Columbia River. The city expects to receive the rest of the water from the Bureau of Reclamation.
The city will have to pay an annual fee for the water. Crutchfield said that is what will be required with new water rights.
Now, the city can grow into the quad-cities water right, Crutchfield said.