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Mabton seeks grant to obtain water rights

MABTON - After receiving current estimates on the cost of purchasing water rights and constructing a well, the Mabton City Council passed a resolution last night authorizing Mayor Velva Herrera to submit a grant application on behalf of the city of Mabton.

A public hearing on the grant proposal was held Nov. 12.

Alan Rainey, project engineer at Spink Engineering, said the grant will be a community development block grant administered through CTED. The application deadline is Thursday, Nov. 20. Rainey said he expects to know if Mabton's grant application is approved by March 2009.

The total amount the city is asking for is $434,500, with $200,000 going to cover the cost of buying the water rights and the administration costs associated with transferring the rights.

The remaining $234,500 will be used for the construction of the well and engineering costs.

Before council voted to give Herrera authorization to apply for the grant, Councilman Mario Martinez announced to the two citizens in attendance that he owns land in Mabton that could stand to benefit in the future if the water rights are acquired by the city.

He added that if anyone had an objection with him voting on the issue, he would remove himself.

One citizen, Maria Rose, wanted to know if his land was the reason the city was trying to purchase additional water rights.

Rainey explained that the acquisition of the new water rights really has nothing to do with Martinez and that the city benefits more than the councilman.

Mabton, he explained, is currently operating at a deficit when it comes to water use. What that means is that the city draws 140 more acre-feet of water each year than it is allowed to by the Department of Ecology.

Although the city could incur penalties and fines for doing this, Rainey said Ecology is working with the city because it knows Mabton is trying to acquire more water rights.

The proposed purchase of these new water rights would only bring in an additional 80 acre-feet of water, still leaving the city with a 60 acre-feet shortage.

For Martinez to be able to develop his property the city of Mabton would have to purchase the additional 60 acre-feet of water rights and then some for the city to be able to expand.

Rose was happy with the explanation and didn't object to Martinez voting on the issue.

The purchase of the new water rights and the construction of the new well hinges on the city getting this grant. If the application isn't granted then the city will have to look for other means to purchase the rights.

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