Kennewick Irrigation District's board unanimously agreed Tuesday to take some of the property it owns out of the project to bring Yakima River water to Red Mountain so other property owners can add acres.
Removing about 66 of the 620 acres KID owns in the project is expected to reduce the district's debt load by about $764,000.
The project to bring water to prime wine grape-growing land near Benton City is limited to irrigating up to 1,785 acres, which means not all the acres that landowners asked to add to the project could get in, said Chuck Freeman, KID's manager.
Property owners within the local improvement district, or LID, will pay the almost $20.2 million cost of the project.
Nine property owners asked to add almost 222 acres to the project, but KID received requests only from property owners who represent about 46 acres to opt out of the project.
KID board members considered removing 111 KID-owned acres out of the project. But officials decided to remove just 66 acres based on an analysis by RH2 Engineering of Richland, which determined that those acres likely won't need water because they will be used for roads, staging areas and storage and because of the terrain, Freeman said.
That freed up about 112 acres that could be used for property owners who wanted to join the improvement district, Freeman said.
In general, those who were able to add acres to the project were those who asked first, said Jason McShane, the district's engineering and operations manager.
Freeman said it is structured so that those who join the project would not cause the cost to increase.
Construction already has begun on the Kiona intake station, pump house and other improvements needed to deliver water to landowners on Red Mountain. The intake station is near the intersection of Highway 224 and Demoss Road.
McShane said bids on the pipeline are expected to open next week, with a contract award possible at the Aug. 20 meeting.
Officials hope to have river water flowing to the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area between Richland and Benton City by next summer, about a year earlier than originally expected.
The KID board agreed to hire Musser Bros. Auctions and Real Estate of Pasco to auction off KID-owned property on Red Mountain and in other areas over time.
The company's fee of 5.5 percent would come out of the purchase price when a sale closes. The contract is for two years, with options to renew it up to six years.
Director Kirk Rathbun recused himself from the decision because of a personal relationship with the Musser family.