Friday, September 30, 2005

State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Pushes For Completion of the Columbia Basin Project

The Seattle Times: Opinion

"The Columbia Basin's economy would be devastated without water. About 35,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the Odessa sub-area, and the crop's annual economic impact is nearly $630 million and about 3,600 jobs. Most of these jobs are found in rural towns like Moses Lake and Othello. Without irrigation, the potato industry there and its jobs would vanish. This water crisis also would hurt the state's tax revenue situation, since agriculture there is a major revenue producer. Furthermore, jobs will be lost in Western Washington, since millions of dollars in crops that are grown in the Odessa aquifer area are exported through the ports in Seattle and Tacoma to Southeast Asia and Latin America. Short-term solutions have emerged, but a long-term fix must be found and implemented before the aquifer is depleted. The logical solution to stop the aquifer's depletion is to begin completion of the Columbia Basin Project so surface water could be substituted for the groundwater on which many irrigators and communities above the Odessa aquifer now rely. A resource-exchange solution would reduce groundwater pumping dramatically and allow the aquifer to recharge over time, while also protecting the economy of Adams, Franklin, Grant and Lincoln counties. This is not about requesting new water rights. In fact, the Odessa aquifer's water users are part of the Columbia Basin Project's water right — one of the state's oldest water rights — and it's actually referred to in state statute."