The Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR COE) team, along with Representative Skyler Rude, attended a tour of the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP) led by Jennifer Hickenbottom (United States Bureau of Reclamation), Tom Tebb (Office of the Columbia River Director), Jed Crowther and Odelia Linden (East Columbia Basin Irrigation District Development Coordinator and Development Office Clerk). The photo below was taken during the tour at one of their projects (Lind Coulee Siphon #2 Test Sections) that will help deliver water to Odessa Subarea farmers.
Water is the lifeblood of farmers here in Washington state where irrigated crops account for 1.8 million acres, of which 75% is derived from surface water and 25% from ground water. Additionally, irrigated agriculture accounts for the largest share of the nation’s consumptive water use; according to WSU, 80% of Washington water withdrawals are for agriculture. Irrigated agriculture yields high-value crops like apples, alfalfa, potatoes, and hops and is a major pillar in Washington’s diverse economy. These high-value water-intensive crops rely entirely on irrigation, in a region that receives little annual precipitation. Water is an economic necessity in the Columbia Basin. The ever-rising hurdles to access water will define a generation, as it has defined previous generations.
Historically, farmers were encouraged to homestead the dry Columbia plateau as a result of the Reclamation Act of 1902, intended to boost development of the arid West. While the region contains rich fertile soil dating back to the Missoula floods, it lacks the annual precipitation to support the current scale of agriculture in the region.
Since then, reservoirs, canals, siphons, pumping plants, and pipeline systems have been built and expanded to support the water demands of the Columbia Basin. The transformation of the west from semi-arid and low-value grazing into one of the largest productive agricultural areas in the US, would be near impossible without irrigation infrastructure. The structures that are supporting these irrigated systems (reservoirs, canal, and siphons) are sub-projects of the Columbia Basin Project and The Columbia River Initiative (which the Columbia River Water Management Programs sprang from). OGWRP stems from both projects.
The goal of OGWRP is to reduce further depletion of the Odessa aquifer, to reserve that groundwater for the surrounding municipalities and to remove declining groundwater wells in an effort to provide a long-term irrigation water supply to support Washington’s economic vitality and stability. The OGWRP is an innovative approach to improve irrigation water supply through the expansion of the East Low Canal to serve about 100,000 more acres of eligible lands in a portion of the Columbia Basin project.
These projects are a huge endeavor and therefore require multi-agency involvement. These partnerships range from federal, state, and local and include the following: The United States Bureau of Reclamation, The Department of Ecology Office of Columbia River, The East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, The South Columbia Irrigation District, The Quincy Columbia Basin Irrigation District and local landowners who have invested in capital costs for design and construction of delivery systems. Some of the original farmsteads who invested in the initial capital costs for their own private wells while awaiting completion of final phases of the Columbia Basin Project and did so for the benefit of future generations. Yet, some of these multi-generational farming families may not yet access all potential irrigation water supplies due to delay in the construction of the East High Canal; which has significantly impacted the crop profitability, as crop yields and crop value significantly decrease without access to water. This exemplifies the adversity our irrigated farmers experience generation to generation; and the wide-ranging socio-economic pressures of modern-day farming in fairly uncertain times. However, the legacy of farmers in Washington will persevere.
The hydrologic and socio-economic complexity of water in the Columbia Plateau presents considerable short-term and long-term challenges to the partnerships and stakeholders tied to OGWRP. Water scarcity in the face of our changing global climate will challenge how we manage water resources in an effective, equitable, and sustainable manner. Moving forward, while nearly 100,000 acres now have the opportunity to receive reliable access to water under OGWRP, there are over 250,000 acres still to be developed. As the construction and development of current and upcoming projects are underway, advocacy for funding continues. The East District recently received the contracting authority for OGWRP acres by completion of an Amendment to the Renewal Master Water Service Contract with Reclamation, which provides more certainty for landowners to invest in the delivery systems.
This was a thought-provoking tour of the scale of water-demand issues pressuring irrigated farmers in the Columbia plateau. ANR COE hopes to assist in planning student tours of OGWRP in the K-12 and post-secondary system. To learn more about upcoming tours, contact Ceana Pacheco at [email protected]
Washington’s call-to-action for integrating K-12 climate literacy initiatives statewide was collaboratively answered by over 85 environmental educators at the 2019 E3 Conference. The conference, co-hosted by E3 Washington, KEEN (Kittitas Environmental Education Network) and PEI (Pacific Education Institute) took place on October 4th-6th outside Ellensburg -tucked away in the heart of Manastash Canyon in the picturesque Eastern Cascade Mountain Foothills.
The interwoven pillars of Environment and Sustainability Education (ESE); Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI); and Educating for a Green Economy (EGE) were focal points during the keynote presentations, hands-on sessions, and round table discussions.
The Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR COE) was excited to be the opening keynote speaker at the E3 Conference to discuss the expanding opportunities in educating for a green economy in Washington. Director Lindsey Williams spoke about the potential of supporting a green economy framework through our state’s Community and Technical College (CTC) system in partnership with the Washington Centers of Excellence (COEs).
As paradigms shift in our agriculture and natural resource industries, those changes must be reflected in the curriculum at post-secondary and higher education institutions. Green economy skills will be required across economic sectors and the COEs are in a unique position to ensure those skills are incorporated into the state’s 34 CTCs. COEs are able to assist in articulation agreements and support the development of new CTC programs in partnership with local industry and business.
Furthermore, Director Williams emphasized the benefit of Guided Pathways in our CTC system. Guided Pathways are focused on increasing student retention by offering clear pathways into high-paying, high-demand fields. This research-based approach is focused on helping more students, especially low-income, first-generation, and students of color. Guided Pathways can be viewed as one mechanism for promoting green economy values in our state’s CTC system through an equity lens to support and uplift historically underserved communities.
Post-secondary and higher education institutions have a pivotal role to play in the transformative shift towards a green economy, as it offers a platform for a knowledge base capable of solving 21st-century problems with 21st-century knowledge.
Additional session topics at the E3 Conference ranged from combatting food waste by involving key stakeholders, to learning concepts of virtual field trips in bringing students to face with ecosystems across the world. Together, these grassroots movements are shifting our education system toward a more environmentally literate framework that will incorporate the values associated with a green economy through an equity lens. These values would include the principles of wellbeing, justice, planetary boundaries, efficiency and sufficiency, and good governance –to name a few.
In culmination, statewide climate literacy initiatives bolstered by an inspirational and exceptional network of educators, many of whom were in attendance, are sowing the seeds for a more sustainable future by developing and implementing a holistic systems-based approach for EGE and in turn, closing the education gap, improving the wellbeing of our communities and the health of our environment, and promoting sustainable economic green growth.
As always, ANR COE remains reliably unbiased as we conduct our statewide work. This years E3 Conference elaborated on the power of collaboration and partnership as we build a more sustainable future for all, together.
K-12 outreach is an important part of our mission and vision here at ANR, our “Pathways to Excellence” Program Guide is an integral part of our statewide marketing work to connect prospective students to agriculture and natural resource programs in our Community and Technical College system.
While the month of October is generally associated with Halloween, it’s an important time for career showcases for graduating seniors, many of whom will attend college in the Fall –a feat that can be easily perceived as spooky.
Not to fear, Director Lindsey Williams, and Coordinator Ceana Pacheco divided and conquered to attend collectively four career showcases from Olympia to Okanogan. ANR was keen to attend these career showcases to discuss expanding opportunities in agriculture and natural resource industries and to ignite the critical dialog between students and their future.
Currently, ANR is in the process of updating the “Pathways to Excellence” Program Guide for the 2020/2021 academic year. ANR looks forward to disseminating the updated guide to potential students statewide. Keep an eye on our website agcenterofexcellence.com for our new publication!
Are your students interested in representing Washington’s CTC system on a national stage?
For years, Columbia Basin College, Spokane Community College, and Walla Walla Community College have empowered students to become active in the Professional Agricultural Student (PAS) organization – a student-led organization that allows participants to build and sharpen their skills so that they are ready for the workplace. Through competitive style learning and real-life application, members are skilled professionals and prepared to work in all areas of the agriculture industry.
PAS is one of the 11 career and technical student organizations that has been approved by the U. S. Department of Education as an integral part of career and technical education.
Washington students have participated in the State competition, and moved on to Nationals for the past 3 decades.
For more information, visit https://www.nationalpas.org/ or contact our team at ANR.
Here at ANR we pride ourselves on the unique ability to connect every interest back to agriculture and natural resources, as most industries are intrinsically tied to our natural environment. Inspiring to be a cosmetology professional? Well, beauty products are often derived from plant-based ingredients grown at one point by a farmer or found in our natural environment, and thus tied to our natural resource industries here in Washington. Here’s another one, cybersecurity. Could your farm technology get hacked? Probably. Protect your farm with a degree in cybersecurity today!
We love a challenge. Submit a job and we will, by hook or by crook, tie it back to agriculture and natural resource industries here in Washington! This is part our ongoing effort to advocate for the understanding and recognition that Washington is a leader in agriculture and natural resource industries. Keep an eye out for our Q 1, 2020 Newsletter, for part 2!
Submit job at, [email protected]