Friday, October 28, 2011

Quincy Basin water rights bring tangible changes to area

by Jani Gilbert, communications manager, Eastern Regional Office

Ecology is working to make water available in the Quincy Basin Groundwater Management Subarea. This means growth in the tourism industry so people have new vacation options; farmers who were for years staring blankly at dry, unproductive land are now looking out at fresh, new crops; and entrepreneurs with dreams of new industry are making those dreams come true.

This unique water came from beneath the Columbia Basin Project where it had accumulated from years of irrigation. It's called "artificially stored groundwater." Over the last seven years, Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation worked together to develop a Quincy Basin water permitting process. Since then, more than 100 permits have been issued.

"We've worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to bring water back into Eastern Washington—to get it back into play for businesses, farming and housing developments," said Katherine Ryf of the Eastern Regional Office's Water Resources Program.

Water adds value

Quincy farmer Stanley Kaufmann swept his arm through the air to indicate a large swath of land saying the new water has increased the value of his property and that it's been good for the economy too. "I spent about $200,000 here getting the land ready to farm again and I used a lot of labor," said Kaufmann. "I spent almost $50,000 in rocking this ground."

Kaufmann said he hired from five to ten people for two to three months to work the land. "And we still have more to do," he said.

The water increased the value of the land in another way too. "Before we could only run one animal unit (cow) per 100 acres and now I'm running at least one and a half and it could get up to three head." Kaufmann also pointed out that now he is able to add $1,200 per acre to the community's tax coffers, up from zero.

Marilyn and Mike Measburg, who own the MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir say new water is allowing them to expand their resort to attract more visitors.

"Rural Grant, Adams and Lincoln counties have suffered horribly during this recession; we always struggle," Marilyn said. She said tourism is the third largest industry in Grant County and anything that can be done to help tourism along will help increase the tax base.

Key to life

Mike Measburg explained that the first thing they plan to do is expand their property, which is a 30-acre ribbon of land along the south shore of Potholes. He said they plan to add larger sized service hookups for RVs and more tent sites and camping cabins.

"Water is the key to life in central Eastern Washington," he said. "Without water nothing is here except Mother Nature and everything that sticks ya, pricks ya, bites ya and gits ya."

For some, the extra water means industrial growth opportunities and the creation of hundreds of jobs. Take, for example, Bob Fancher and Pamp Maiers, two partners who have built a new reverse osmosis water purification plant for industrial development in the Moses Lake area.

Creating Jobs

"There was no such facility like that around here," said Bob. "The new plant helps industry conserve water by using it over and over. We're hoping we can recruit new industry and provide jobs for the area this way. There's a big need for purified water."

Bob and Pamp say the plant could lead to employing an unlimited number of people. They estimate it could result in 400-500 new jobs in the near future. "This is a large plant we've built here," Bob said.

The limit of water the Water Resources Program has to allocate for this program is 177,000 acre-feet. With nearly 169,000 acre-feet already allocated, that leaves about 8,000 acre-feet available for new water permits for more expansions, more innovations and more dreams.

Bob Fancher (right) and Pamp Maiers with their Central Terminal water purification plant in the background.

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