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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Project to send Pend Oreille River water to Columbia Basin found feasible

The proposed project would require 53 miles of canal, 33 miles of tunnel, 40 miles of artificial lakes and numerous earthen dams. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
The proposed project would require 53 miles of canal, 33 miles of tunnel, 40 miles of artificial lakes and numerous earthen dams. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

A state commission declared that the proposed Columbia Basin irrigation project was perfectly feasible and presented “no serious engineering difficulties,” the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported.

No, this was not the Grand Coulee Dam plan, which we know today.

This was a grand scheme to take water from the Pend Oreille River and send it 130 miles to a spot south of Ritzville, where it would be distributed to the arid Columbia Basin.

It would require 53 miles of canal, 33 miles of tunnel, 40 miles of artificial lakes and numerous earthen dams. It would irrigate 1.75 million acres of central and eastern Washington.

Spokane interests had long been enthusiastic about this scheme, because the canal (or tunnel) would go right through the city and because it would open up so much agricultural production. However, no one had put a price tag on this enormous project, and even the commission refused to speculate on the price.

The commission also pointed out that nobody had yet determined the “status of the water rights on Flathead and Pend Oreille lakes and the Pend Oreille River in Washington and Canada.”

In the end, this project would never come to pass, and the Columbia Basin would be irrigated by the Columbia River, not the Pend Oreille River.

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