MOSES LAKE, Wash., July 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Successful water resources management requires competence and honesty. Competence depends on comprehending sound technical and financial information; and honesty means not deceiving others, or worse, deceiving yourself. Neither the Pacific Northwest Region Office, USBR nor the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District have embraced this standard in "reviewing" the new System 1 Water Service Contract requested by Irrigators and CSRIA, for the Odessa Subarea. There are two issues at play here: water use efficiency and the prudent use of financial resources, the irrigators' money.
The first issue is the wise and effective use of water. It would take an extraordinary level of incompetence to not optimize, via state authorized water spreading and well established practice, the new surface water allocation for the Odessa Subarea, given that Western water resources are under great physical constraints and public demands. The USBR has been loudly criticized for inefficient water use, leading to uneconomical projects. The lack of USBR sensitivity to these factors is, in this circumstance, mind-numbing.
Prompted by the USBR-District, a recent "opinion" letter from Ecology legal staff suggesting that optimizing water use efficiency (water spreading) in the Odessa Subarea is inconsistent with the legislative intent for Subarea water use is phenomenal nonsense; and it is completely counter to Ecology Management's original approval of the provisions that are contained in the System I WSC submitted to the USBR. This letter's source reflects Derek Sandison's (Office of Columbia River, Ecology) irrational reversal of support for irrigator direct project financing and development—an action contrary to best management practices for water use and to financial integrity for the project. Mr. Sandison's judgment here was profoundly misguided, and it will now be on the shoulders of the Ecology Director, and legislative leaders, to reverse this damage to water management reality.
The second issue involves basic financial literacy. The Irrigators have fully secured $42 million of private sector financing to initiate System 1 construction; and up to about $100 million is available to proceed with a broader systems package. The District is still stumbling along, and even the progress on East Low Canal modifications is moving very slowly--but this may be intentional given the District's disorientation surrounding system development and financing.
The PNRO-USBR/District's proposed "normative process" for project development and financing is a product of considerable self-deception. There is no cost advantage to this ephemeral and fiscally insecure concept: there is no cost advantage to having the District build the systems; more acres would be subjected to higher costs, actually discouraging participation; the annualized systems' costs would be higher than the direct private irrigators' costs; the total 30-year debt service costs would be substantially higher than the privates; and there is no tangible public sector revenue bonding package even on the table.
To the extent that the District is offering limited water contracts that include "normative development fee" costs, those costs are fictitious in substance, and likely fraudulent relative to state legal provisions that do not allow irrigation districts to access fees that exceed actual benefits to the ground served. The Odessa Subarea surface water supply objective is to put water on the ground, not to put excessive funds in the District's coffers.
Unfortunately, the lack of District concern for Irrigator costs goes further. The District spurned CSRIA's efforts to secure additional state funding ($20 million) to finish East Low Canal modifications below Lind Coulee, to allow for access to water for all South of I-90 systems. Allocation of this additional funding was contingent upon the USBR releasing the System 1 WSC, but this would have effectively eliminated any feeble justification for even pondering a "normative fee process." Thus, the District preferred to increase costs to Irrigators rather than allow the Irrigators to proceed with system(s) construction. How does this inexplicable action represent the Irrigators' best interests or leverage their direct financing capability?
Each day, it becomes increasing apparent to observers, that the USBR-District are disregarding an effective standard for water resources management. This carries with it a patronizing disservice to the Irrigators, the broader Irrigated Agriculture Industry, and their dependent communities. The wells are going dry, farmers and communities suffer as the USBR-District folly continues.
For more information, please contact Darryll Olsen at 509-783-1623 or Email.
The Odessa Aquifer Privately Funded Project has been widely endorsed by many newspapers and decision-makers as a viable, cost-effective and realistic option to immediately begin replacing the use of groundwater from the declining Odessa Subarea Aquifer.
Following are recent editorials endorsing/supporting the privately funded/financed project:
SOURCE Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association