Columbia Basin Project Greens Up Trust Lands for Revenue

The Columbia Basin Project is an example of how a large public investment into a tangible project can spur the growth of the nation’s economic wellbeing for generations to come.

Columbia Basin Project map

Columbia Basin Project map, courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation (CLICK image to enlarge)

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) participates in the Columbia Basin Project by providing leases to lessees who irrigate the lands primarily for agriculture within Adams, Franklin, and Grant counties. The project, which provides irrigation to 671,000 acres, is managed by three irrigation districts: the Quincy Columbia Irrigation District, the East Columbia Irrigation District, and the South Columbia Irrigation District.

It is DNR’s good fortune to have irrigated acres within the project’s area. Agricultural uses include crops such as grain, hay, beans, fruit, grapes, sugar beets, potatoes, sweet corn, seed and other specialty crops.

The ability to irrigate these lands is more evidence of how the nation’s investment in the Columbia Basin Project continues to benefit Washington’s K-12 education programs, as the majority of revenue produced by DNR through its agriculture leasing program supports the construction of public schools statewide.

A Short History of the Columbia Basin Project

The original vision of the Columbia Basin Project was much larger than what we see today. The Bureau of Reclamation’s history of the project notes:

In mid-April 1933, supporters of the project met with President Roosevelt to outline the project and recommend he allocate the $400,000,000 needed for construction. The President balked at the suggestion and suggested a smaller dam that could be enlarged at a later date. The President advised that the project be constructed in stages using relief money and encouraged them to seek the assistance of the Bureau of Reclamation in designing and building the dam. Supporters of the irrigation scheme were disappointed: a low dam could be used to generate power, but would not allow water to be pumped for irrigation. Still, the drive to get the dam built continued.”

Efforts to expand the Columbia Basic Project continue today, more than 80 years after its proposal.

The Columbia Basin Project (CBP) is located in east central Washington and currently serves about 671,000 acres, or just over 65 percent of the approximately 1 million acres originally authorized by Congress. Principal project features include Grand Coulee Dam, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, and the Grand Coulee Powerplant Complex.