UMATILLA COUNTY – Umatilla County broke ground Wednesday for the Central Pipeline Project which will carry water from the Columbia River to the land earmarked for development that used to comprise the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot.
County Commissioner John Shafer, who has been working on the project since 2019, said help from the project came from regional members of the Oregon Legislature, but got a big boost thanks to the help of Sen. Elizabeth Steiner (D-Portland/Beaverton).
“She actually delivered a $6 million check to the project,” Shafer said. “When you have a project this size, you have to go to the state legislature, and you need champions for funding. She became a friend.”
The groundbreaking symbolized having the funding in place. Shafer said the next step forward will be building a master plan. That plan is being worked out by the parties who make up the Columbia Development Authority and IRZ Engineering and Consulting of Hermiston. The CDA is made up of representatives from the ports of Umatilla and Morrow, the counties of the same, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Oregon National Guard.
Work on the pipeline is now underway as the irrigation season ended on Nov. 1.
“They’re digging trenches right now and they’re putting pipe in the ground,” he said.
The Columbia River water will run south with a drop-off point of the northeast corner of the depot for the city of Umatilla. It will then continue south to benefit the Westland Irrigation District. The rest of the water is going towards recharge. The project is using the water rights from both Umatilla and the Westland Irrigation District in addition to the county’s limited license to recharge the aquifer when it is not irrigation season.
Photos provided by Umatilla County
Editor’s note: This story was corrected to show the pipeline project belongs to Umatilla County, not the Columbia Development Authority.