Bringing water to properties on the south side of Red Mountain could cost up to $17.2 million with a design being considered by the Kennewick Irrigation District.
The KID board Tuesday approved a plan that would provide pressurized water to about 1,700 acres of prime wine grape-growing land in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area.
The federally recognized wine grape-growing region is one of 13 in Washington, all but one of which are in Eastern Washington.
Red Mountain, approved as an AVA in 2001, is considered by winemakers as one of the finest grape-growing areas of the state. Wine grapes have been grown on the ridge between West Richland and Benton City since 1975. Today, it is home to such wineries as Col Solare, Hedges Family Estate, Fidelitas and Kiona Vineyards Winery.
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At 4,040 acres, it is the smallest AVA in the state, and the land is precious, often selling for $50,000 or more per unplanted acre. It is best known for cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and other red varieties that can fetch more than $2,000 per ton -- twice the state average.
The Local Improvement District, which was formed in September 2009, has 85 participants, including KID, which owns about 250 acres in nine parcels.
Paul Cross of RH2 Engineering in Richland told the KID board that his company is ready to move ahead on a full design of the irrigation system once landowners in the LID give their approval.
That could come in late June, after the LID participants hear the full presentation.
Cross said the $17.2 million price tag is higher than the almost $15 million estimate a year ago, but it includes several features that will make the water system more efficient.
He recommended installing backup pumps and generators for emergency power as part of the total system, which drive up the cost.
Other factors increasing the estimate include a storage facility, water treatment, automatic meter reading and a state requirement to find replacement land for natural shrub steppe habitat that will become vineyards.
Cross said having a Red Mountain South LID committee working with his company was a big help in the early design work.
The $17.2 million "is a high board" estimate that Cross said can be reduced if LID property owners prefer less-expensive options.
Savings can come through redesigning the water intake facility at the Yakima River, changing pipeline specifications and not having a backup, or dual, power supply.
Cross said a single complication could delay the project from being finished next year.
State Fish and Wildlife officials require all work in the river related to building the water intake facility must happen between July 15 and Sept. 15.
"If we miss that window, we could end up having to wait another year," Cross said.
An economic impact study released last month by the Washington Wine Commission shows that the state's wine industry is worth $8.6 billion a year, up $3 billion from a similar study in 2006.
In Benton County, the wine industry annually contributes about $1 billion to the economy.
The board unanimously approved the RH2 plan, noting that a meeting will be scheduled for LID participants to review and approve it sometime in June.
Also Tuesday, the KID board accepted the resignation of John Jaksch, who had been on the board since 2007. Jaksch recently moved to Texas.