Water storage funding on minds of irrigators

With California’s winter drought currently in the headlines, federal and state lawmakers are mulling ways to help increase water storage.

Jim Trull is SVID’s district manager and he shared the news yesterday, Tuesday, with the irrigation district’s board of directors.

A federal bill, Trull noted, would if approved generate $400 million per year to fund water storage projects.

In Olympia, Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside is also submitting legislation with an eye towards funding water supply projects. Trull said he has been asked to appear before a state legislative committee to testify on Honeyford’s proposal.

In yet another positive sign, Trull told the SVID board that Gov. Jay Inslee has asked irrigation districts around the state to tally up the total amount they’ve spent on water conservation issues dating back to the 1970s.

The idea, says Trull, is that Inslee wants to take the data back to D.C. and show Congress the local dollars that have been spent on the issue.

Speaking of Washington D.C., just this morning Congressman Doc Hastings issued a statement on his support for water storage legislation during a hearing of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power.

“I have long supported efforts to construct additional water storage in the Yakima River Basin,” said Hastings, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. “It is essential to our communities, farmers and fish that we think of new and innovative ways to fund water storage in this time of limited federal budgets.”

Hastings is proposing a bill, HR 3981, that would allow irrigation districts to voluntarily prepay contracts with the federal government. The funding generated by these payments would be placed in an account to fund either the construction of new water storage projects or the expansion of current water storage reservoirs.

A second proposal Hastings submitted would authorize the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to implement a surface storage enhancement program to fund new or expanded water storage construction for purposes including increased municipal supply, agricultural irrigation and to reduce impacts to fish and wildlife.

An example of the need for more storage was highlighted indirectly earlier during the SVID board meeting.

Dave Bos, SVID’s assistant manager responsible for operations, noted that while storage is currently just above normal for this type of year, the snowpack is only at 52 percent of average for this time of year.

Further, Bos said precipitation is only 67 percent of average for this time of year.

The SVID and the Sunnyside Division Board of Control’s next monthly board meeting will be Monday, March 3, at 1:30 p.m. at the SVID office.

The Roza-Sunnyside Board of Joint Control is scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 18.

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