After three growing seasons without water, a parcel of irrigated state trust land south of Ephrata is once again leased and producing income, thanks to the persistent efforts to gain legal access by DNR’s Southeast Region agriculture staff.A 75-acre irrigation circle on the parcel was first developed from sagebrush in 1994, and was leased to the adjacent landowner. At the time, there was an urgency to use the water service contract offered to DNR by the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, or DNR would lose it.
It all started in 1956, when the state land surrounding this parcel had to be sold when the Columbia Basin Project brought water to the block. Unfortunately, these farm units were sold without preserving legal access to the remaining state trust land. In 2008, lease negotiations were unsuccessful with the existing lessee who had access, and efforts to purchase legal access over the shortest route failed. Consequently, the parcel was left unleased.
Over the next two years, DNR worked to find other routes to the parcel for both access and power. An agreement was finally reached with one neighbor to dedicate a county road and a second neighbor to sell DNR an easement to complete an access route. DNR’s equipment operator built the needed 2,000 feet of new road across rocky terrain and along a steep hillside.
A new lease was offered at public auction in November, 2011 — awarded to a young farmer from the area. This development lease stipulated that the lessee pay for construction of a half-mile of new power line and the irrigation equipment. He completed the irrigation development just in time to plant a crop of corn in April, 2012.
We are pleased to have resolved the access problem and returned this parcel to production, generating revenue for the Common School Construction Fund (K-12th grade schools).
Brent Billingsley, Columbia Basin District Manager