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Farmers may soon get surface water

Surface water may be as close as ever for some Columbia Basin farmers who have been watching their groundwater slip away.

The state Department of Ecology has water rights in hand for some of the farmers in what is known as the Odessa Subarea to move off wells and onto water from the nearby East Low Canal, east of Moses Lake.

Planning is underway to build irrigation systems that would connect some of the farms in Adams, Grant and Lincoln counties to the canal. Some water could flow within two years.

The state Legislature recently set aside $32 million for canal improvements meant to add to capacity, allowing more farmers south of Interstate 90 to access canal water without harming current users.

For the farmers just east of the canal, surface water has been a long time coming. Groundwater never was supposed to be a long-term irrigation source.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation once planned to build a second canal, which would have served these farmers in the unfinished portion of the Columbia Basin Project.