The customers of the Kennewick Irrigation District could soon own the canals they have been paying for since the early 1950s.
The district is ready to pay off the last of a $4.6 million, zero-interest federal loan that paid for the Bureau of Reclamation to build its facilities, including canals and pumps.
KID’s loan is scheduled to be paid off in 2024, but KID has offered to pay it off early.
It doesn’t mean KID will own the canals and irrigation facilities that start at its head gate 40 miles to the east.
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That will require an act of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., has introduced legislation that would authorize the interior secretary to transfer assets to KID, the congressman said in Kennewick on Monday.
“The transfer includes the conveyance of land and project facilities, and as the legislation directs, must be completed no later than two years after its enactment,” Newhouse said.
KID will complete an environmental study as required by federal law and all reviews mandated by the Endangered Species Act and the National Historical Preservation Act, he said.
The title conveyance is not a privatization of federal water projects or property, Newhouse said.
Instead, it conveys the title to facilities already managed and operated by a local, public irrigation district.
“It will greatly benefit our community by allowing local challenges to be addressed locally,” said Dean Dennis, president of the KID Board of Directors.
The purpose and use of what are now federal facilities, including 80 miles of canal, drains and wasteways, will not change, said Chuck Freeman, KID manager.
KID deals with an average of more than 300 property transfers a month, and the Bureau of Reclamation is not staffed for that work.
The bureau has one Realtor position for not only the 470,000 acres of the Yakima Project, but also 700,000 acres irrigated by the Columbia River.
“As the West urbanizes, the bureau just can’t staff to meet the demand,” Freeman said.
But KID can.
KID ownership could have an additional benefit to Tri-Cities residents.
Some of KID’s canal lines have been enclosed in pipes, but the federal ownership keeps the land over them closed to the public.
A partnership with the city of Kennewick could open land for public walking trails, including in the Southridge area.