As of Wednesday, December 16, 2015
SUNNYSIDE Roza farmers will not be facing an extra $85 a year in assessments for the next 10 years, but 2016’s assessment will be nearly $50 an acre more than in 2015.
The Roza Irrigation District Board of Directors yesterday set the assessment for 2016 at $182.65 per irrigable acre. The assessment is a one-time cost adjusted annually based on the irrigation district’s needs.
The hike will provide an additional $3.1 million for Roza’s drought fund.
Nearly half of that increase will recover $1.3 million spent on engineering costs the past three months for a proposed temporary pumping plant at Lake Kachess.
The board previously considered an $85 per acre hike in 2016 to pay for the Kachess plant, which had an estimated cost of $57 million.
Higher than anticipated costs and an improved water outlook prompted the board yesterday to pull the plug on Kachess.
Scott Revell said the assessment, up $48.75 from 2015’s rate of $133.90 per acre, will also cover all the drought-related expenses the district incurred this year.
Roza spent $1.8 million during last summer’s drought, including about $1.4 million to lease water.
“This includes leases, pump backs, repairs to the canals and the amount already spent on the Kachess project,” he said.
“The main reason for the assessment is to recover the drought fund,” Revell said. “If it’s a water-short year in 2016, we could easily go through $3 to $7 million in leases real quick.”
Revell said the district started 2015 with $3.5 million in its drought fund and went through most of it.
Roza farmer Jeff Hogue, on hearing the board canceled the temporary Kachess plant, said he felt the project was not fully planned out, but was resigned to paying increased the assessment.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd during yesterday’s Roza board meeting, Revell explained costs for the Kachess project increased from an estimated $57 million to $78 million.
“The bulk of the cost increase is related to marine, in-water work,” he said.
The plan would have set up six temporary pumps in Lake Kachess to increase water flow for Roza irrigators during drought years.
As a result of the increased cost, Revell recommended canceling the project. The board agreed, although board President Ric Valicoff said he still likes the idea.
“I still think it’s a good project,” he said. “But the costs have gotten away.”
Valicoff also thanked farmers for their input.
During a break in the meeting, Valicoff stated the district would continue with the basin integrated plan to reduce the impact of future droughts.
Arnold Martin, a mint farmer who irrigates with Roza water, said the vote is good news for small farmers.
“I’ll have to read the motion again, but it sounds like it’s a positive,” he said. “This allows us to have a more normal year.”
Also attending the meeting were people living near Lake Kachess. Grant Learned, a property owner in the area, said the result was a relief.
“They really didn’t look enough at all the problems it would cause,” he said. “They didn’t count mitigation costs in the overall cost.”