A $20 million project has begun to build two siphons to supply irrigation water to 10,000 acres that now rely on wells in the declining Odessa Subarea Aquifer, the Interior Department announced Tuesday.
Construction of the Weber Branch and Weber Coulee Siphons will eliminate a water-delivery bottleneck in the East Low Canal where it crosses Interstate 90 near Moses Lake, according to the Interior Department.
"Construction of the Weber Branch and Weber Coulee Siphons will get some needed water to farmers in the Odessa Subarea and will contribute to the greater success of the Columbia Basin Project," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The project also will meet objectives of the state's Columbia River Water Management Act, which calls for the development of new water supplies while meeting the economic and community development needs of people, and preserving the environment.
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Funding for the project is through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The contract was awarded to Mowat Construction Co. of Woodinville in September 2009, but an unsuccessful bidder protested in November 2009. GAO denied the protest earlier this year and construction began in April.
Water in the Odessa Subregion must be pumped from 750 feet up to 2,400 feet in some locations, according to the state. A recent U.S. Geological Survey report of the larger 44,000-square-mile Columbia Plateau Regional Aquifer system -- which includes Odessa -- found water levels declined an average 2 feet per year in the deep basalt Grande Ronde aquifer from 1984-2009.
The Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area says static ground water levels in wells -- the elevation of water in a column -- in areas of the Columbia Basin have dropped at an average rate of 18.7 feet per year in the past decade because of irrigation and municipal demands, according to a new draft study by the Columbia Basin GWMA.
A survey the Columbia Basin GWMA conducted with Odessa Subarea well users found that 31 percent already are raising short-season crops or counting on their wells for supplemental use only because of the declines.