Irrigation firsts approved yesterday

In one fell swoop the Sunnyside Division Board of Control made two historic decisions yesterday.

One of those decisions reached on Tuesday means that the Benton Irrigation District will eventually be separated from the board of control after more than 60 years working together.

But it could be a good thing according to local irrigators, as the agreement inked yesterday allows the Benton Irrigation District to develop its own point of diversion from the Yakima River, rather than rely on a system of piping to get the water downstream to farmers in that area.

The result will not only mean a direct source for Benton, but will also save irrigation water that is lost through the current distribution system.

The Benton Irrigation District's $6 million project for a diversion point will start construction in 2009. It is primarily funded through a federal/state partnership of grant money.

The other big decision yesterday was approval to go ahead with a program that will give irrigators an on-demand watering system.

Rather than having the irrigation water running continuously, the program seeks to provide each irrigator with a valve for turning on and off the water. Currently, city residents with SVID irrigation water have a spigot that allows the flow to be turned off and on.

It's a big project, valued at $67 million, and will take 15 years to complete. Jim Trull is the board of director's general manager and director for SVID. He said after federal and state grants, SVID will pay 17.5 percent of the project's cost.

The on-demand watering system is the result of a 20-year legal process settling water-right issues related to the Yakima River. Under the agreement, SVID receives the money to deliver the project to each irrigator, but then must turn two-thirds of the water savings - 25,000 acre feet of water per year - back into the river to enhance stream flows.

SVID will start work on the on-demand irrigation systems in 2010, Trull said.


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