The Kennewick Irrigation District is considering whether it should take ownership of district facilities and land from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
KID took out a zero-interest loan from the federal government in the 1950s to pay for the Bureau of Reclamation to build facilities, including canals and pumps.
The loan will be paid off in 2022, but that does not mean KID will own the facilities, said KID district manager Charles Freeman.
A transfer of the title would have to be made through a process that would involve negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation and then congressional approval.
The KID board has taken the first step, approving a resolution directing Freeman to explore the title transfer and come back with a recommendation. A consultant who has gone through the title transfer process elsewhere will offer advice.
Since 1986, the Bureau of Reclamation has transferred components of 30 irrigation projects to local control, including at the Yakima Tieton Irrigation District.
Overall we would be more responsive on some matters where the federal government is involved now, and we would be more efficient.
Charles Freeman, KID district manager
It’s too soon to know the KID’s costs of the process of taking ownership of facilities, or the savings and costs that might result.
“We are literally at step one in a 100-mile race,” Freeman said.
The federal government would no longer have responsibility for the operation, maintenance, management, regulation and liability for the lands and facilities should KID take ownership of them.
Control would be transferred from the federal government to local control, allowing KID to do what its leadership believes is in the district’s best interest without needing to wait for and obtain federal approval, Freeman said.
“Overall we would be more responsive on some matters where the federal government is involved now, and we would be more efficient,” Freeman said.
One project the district would like to see move forward is the electrification of the Chandler Pumping Plant to boost the district’s water supply in drought years.
The bureau spent $3.6 million studying the project more than a decade ago, but the project did not move forward.
Federal estimates of the cost of the project have been in the range of $30 million to $60 million, Freeman said. But KID commissioned a new look at the project that put the cost at an estimated $23.6 million.
The electrification would eliminate the need to use 1.5 gallons of water to spin turbines and power a pump to deliver each gallon of water to the KID’s main canal.
District officials plan to meet with local city and county governments to discuss the possible transfer.