Odessa Subarea Irrigators and the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) in Washington state have filed a lawsuit against the United States Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in the Eastern District of Washington U.S. District Court.

The parties claim that BOR has arbitrarily delayed and blocked the approval of a new water service contract for the irrigators' privately funded pipeline project to bring surface water from the BOR's East Low Canal to irrigate at least 70,000 acres of farmland in the Odessa Subarea.

Those filing suit say the project has been 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 Aquifer in eastern Washington. Additionally, it offers a practical and reasonable solution that can be developed in a short time frame to begin effectively resolving the Odessa Aquifer depletion issue.

The irrigation groups say it was a surprising and arbitrary denial by the BOR, which follows nearly three years of meetings and communications that CSRIA and Odessa Irrigators have had with BOR and East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (ECBID).  

CSRIA has completed the System 1 Project pre-construction engineering for the pipeline, and the participants have secured approved financing with several major banks/accounting firms that have put together a multi-million dollar privately financed package that will build the System 1 infrastructure to get “critically needed surface water to the farms east of Moses Lake.”

Interpretation of the BOR decision and the lawsuit as announced indicates that much of the problem lies in water rights and delivery of water to additional water users in Washington state. Lawsuits over water, especially related to agriculture, should continue to be expected with this being just one more example.