Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District Proposes Substantial Rate Increases to Fix Faulty System | Columbia Basin

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The Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District is offering serious rate hikes to pay for its struggling system. The big rate increases are part of the district’s proposed budget for 2023. Public comment on the new rates will be sought at the October 4, 2022 meeting.

Some water users will see their tariffs increase by up to 77%, while others will see their tariffs decrease. On average, it is proposed to increase fares by 51% in all fare categories.

The district operates and maintains a complex system of pipelines, pumps, motors, electrical equipment, reservoirs and structures that serve irrigation water to approximately 10,000 acres in areas surrounding East Wenatchee, Brays Landing near from Orondo and Howard Flats to Chelan.

The Wenatchee Irrigation District says the majority of the system was built by the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1960s, which is why it appears to be failing at a rate that is difficult to maintain.

In 2022, the district had an operating budget of $2.5 million, but faced more than $1.1 million in one-budgeted emergency repairs that included failing pumps, motors, major electrical equipment, and pipeline breaks. These costs have significantly eroded the district’s earmarked funds and altered planned capital improvements. In 2023, the district is proposing an operating budget of $3.8 million that includes a substantial increase in operations and maintenance and an increase in reserve accounts for unfunded emergencies.

Irrigation district officials say 2022 has been the district’s toughest year, starting the season with just 30 percent of the water needed at peak demand due to irreparable pumps that broke down.

In 2022, agricultural taxpayers paid about $44/acre-foot for water. Proposed rates for 2023 will be approximately $78.57 per acre-foot. In 2022, residential ratepayers were charged an annual charge of $250-300 (not $200 as originally stated) which is proposed to be increased to $375.

“Without this substantial tariff increase, we will not be able to operate and maintain the district’s complex infrastructure, which seriously threatens our ability to deliver water reliably,” wrote the District.

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