The Kennewick Irrigation District's timeline to bring Yakima River water to prime grape-growing land on Red Mountain might be jeopardized if the Legislature fails to include a $5 million no-interest loan for the project in the state's capital budget.
Chuck Freeman, KID's district manager, told the Herald that the Senate version of the capital budget contains the $5 million loan, but the House version does not.
Officials hope to have river water flowing to all 1,785 acres in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area between Richland and Benton City by summer 2014, about a year earlier than originally anticipated. Not receiving the loan would mean missing that goal, Freeman said.
KID is preparing to start construction on a $4.9 million phase of the project, expected to cost almost $20.2 million overall.
The plan depends on $10 million in loans from the state. KID already received the first half, Freeman said. The second half is what awaits the Legislature's approval.
KID officials recently visited Olympia to explain to legislators the importance of the project, which will allow more grapes to be planted, Freeman said. They hope for a decision before the end of the special session, which began on May 13 and is scheduled to last up to 30 days.
Landowners will pay for the project, and will repay the state loans during 25 years, using a local improvement district. KID is one of the landowners, with about 620 acres.
About 400 acres of vineyards on Red Mountain are irrigated using well water, Freeman said. Those wells will be shut off once the project is complete, and Yakima River water will be used instead. The rest of the 1,785 acres is sagebrush.
On Tuesday, the KID board unanimously approved contracting with Pacific Crest Construction of Lynnwood to build the Kiona intake structure, pump house and other improvements. The intake station is near the intersection of Highway 224 and Demoss Road.
Two reservoirs also will be built to hold about 400,000 and 100,000 gallons, respectively.
The company should be ready to start construction by July 15, said Jason McShane, KID's engineering and operations manager. Work in the river only is allowed between July 15 and Sept. 15 in order to have a minimal impact on salmon and steelhead migration.
KID might receive approval from the state and Army Corps of Engineers to remove the construction cofferdam by Oct. 15 instead of Sept. 15, McShane said. A cofferdam is a watertight enclosure that is pumped dry so work can occur below the waterline.
That would give more time for the concrete to cure, he said. While KID could leave the enclosure in the river until December, officials would prefer to have it removed sooner.
Work almost is complete to prepare the intake site, excavate rock and evaluate the rock's stability, McShane said.
The board agreed earlier this year to prepare the site of the booster pumps and station first, before contracting for the remainder of the project, because of some uncertainty about rock stability.
McShane said the rock did end up having good structural strength. An expensive stabilization solution was not needed.
KID still has to award contracts for the pipelines and the reservoirs, Freeman said. Officials hope to have all parts of the project under contract by November.
KID's board also unanimously approved buying 0.69 acres of land from Mark Hewitt for $17,940 for one of the two reservoir sites.
Judy Smith, KID's real property manager, said the reservoir will be buried, as some property owners had requested, because of concerns about how a 30-foot tank would obstruct views.
One of those property owners is Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. The reservoir, southwest of Ste. Michelle's Col Solare property, would be right in the middle of the winery's vista.
Burying the 400,000 gallon tank is expected to add about $350,000 to $500,000 to the total project cost, Freeman said.