SPOKANE, Wash., Aug. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) is strongly opposing the US Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) motion to dismiss CSRIA's lawsuit (on behalf of several Odessa Subarea Aquifer Irrigators) against the agency in the Eastern District of Washington (US District Court). In the lawsuit filed in May, CSRIA and several Odessa Aquifer Irrigators stated that the BOR arbitrarily delayed and blocked approval of a new water service contract for the Irrigators' Privately Funded Project to bring Surface Water from the BOR's East Low Canal.
According to a recent Declaration by Darryll Olsen Ph.D., on behalf CSRIA and various Odessa Aquifer Irrigators opposing BOR's motion to dismiss, Dr. Olsen states that "BOR's failure to deal in a competent and honest manner in its review of the proposed contracts for the Project totally ignores 21st century water use efficiencies, disregards the necessity for direct private sector financing given the lack of federal funding for the Odessa Subarea, and essentially corrupts the investment the State of Washington has already committed to the East Low Canal modifications."
Dr. Olsen goes onto to say in the Declaration that "The problem the Privately Funded Project is designed to solve is one that has been festering for nearly fifty years and has now become critical. As far back as 1967, Ecology closed the Odessa Subarea to drilling of large wells because of declining groundwater levels. Farmers have been able for quite some time to cope with such declining levels by drilling deeper wells, but this is no longer working and wells are failing. There is an overriding public necessity to solve the groundwater problem, but BOR and the Irrigation District are arbitrarily and capriciously rejecting the only available solution: the Privately Funded Project."
Additionally, following are some key points in the Declaration opposing BOR's motion to dismiss:
- There is nothing out of the ordinary about private financed/funded distribution systems operating in the Columbia Basin Project as some 18,000 acres of land are already served by privately-developed irrigation systems off the East Low Canal.
- The Department of Ecology and Adams County asked CSRlA to assist in the process of reviewing the Draft EIS and advising how to effectively deliver Columbia River water to the Odessa subarea. CSRIA's interactions prompted BOR to reconfigure its preferred alternative to include the North of I-90 area.
- The failing groundwater supply in the Odessa Subarea threatens Eastern Washington with very large economic losses in the range of $210 million in lost annual regional income (and 3,600 lost jobs) by 2020.
- Had BOR provided a timely response to CSRIA's proposals, construction would've already been underway on the Privately Funded Project in 2015 and water would have been flowing to participating irrigators in Odessa Subarea by the start of the farming year in 2016.
- BOR has made it clear that there is no federal funding for construction of facilities to replace Odessa groundwater. As a result, Legislative leaders and other decision makers have expressed significant support for the System 1 Project and its Privately Funded approach.
- The BOR-Irrigation District public financing & bonding approach will fail, forcing delay and further economic harm to the irrigators. The District-based public bond alternative is infeasible and much more costly than direct private sector lending.
- CSRlA has much experience in building these types of systems (not the Irrigation District) and is the only entity that had fully secured financing to commence construction ($42 million), and has commitments for up to about $100 million to move forward with multiple system construction.
- Many of the farmers have executed formal statements rejecting the Irrigation District proposal and declaring "no confidence" in its alternative plans, which remain too vague for serious analysis. For example, the BOR-District's "normative" approach attempts to "normalize" costs across multiple parties, which cause the costs to increase (not decrease).
- BOR is requiring that water be delivered from the East Low Canal to System 1 Participants at an excessive and wasteful rate of acre-feet/acre, instead of allowing the water to be used more efficiently over a greater number of acres. BOR and the Irrigation District need to bring "21st century irrigation development" to the Odessa subarea.
- The Irrigation District is proposing unlawful charges to those irrigators struggling to develop their own irrigation systems. Specifically, the District is proposing an arbitrary $120/acre development charge bearing no relation to any costs these irrigators would impose on the District.
In conclusion, CSRIA asks the Court to deny BOR motion to dismiss, and allow CSRIA's lawsuit to proceed as it will show that BOR's stated objections to the Privately Funded Project are lacking any foundation in fact or law, and require that BOR lawfully consider CSRlA's Privately Funded proposals.
For more information, please contact Darryll Olsen at 509-783-1623 or Email.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/odessa-aquifer-irrigators-keep-legal-pressure-on-us-bureau-of-reclamation-300126778.html
SOURCE Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association