State authorizes $132 million to study new Columbia water projects

The Washington Legislature has approved $132 million in bonding authority for studies of massive new water projects in the Columbia River Basin that could include hydroelectric powerhouses.

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill March 22, providing bonding authority to spend $20 million a year over ten years. The total $200 million in bonding authority includes $132 million for studies of water storage projects and $68 million for conservation projects.

Washington’s Department of Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation recently identified 11 possible sites for new storage dams in Washington that would create Columbia basin off-stream reservoirs holding a minimum 300,000 acre-feet. The report said all 11 sites have hydropower potential.

The bill authorizes the State Finance Committee to issue general obligation bonds to provide funds for the Columbia River Basin Water Supply Development Program. Two-thirds of funds placed in the program account are to be used to support development of new storage projects, according to instructions in a separate Columbia River Basin-Water Supply bill.

Expenditures from the program account can be used to assess, plan, and develop new storage facilities, as well as to improve or alter operations of existing storage facilities, implement conservation projects, and carry out other actions to provide access to new water supplies within the Columbia River Basin.

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