By Ann McCreary

With construction estimates over budget, directors of the Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID) are evaluating design options to try to bring down costs on the $10 million Instream Flow Improvement Project.

A project design approved last year by MVID directors after meeting with district members, will cost more than initially anticipated. At an MVID meeting Monday (March 10), directors asked project manager Gregg Knott to develop a cost-benefit analysis for two design alternatives.

MVID and partner organizations involved in the project are anxious to keep it moving forward, because a $6.8 million legislative appropriation for the project must be spent by the end of 2015. Initial plans called for construction to begin by March this year, but design and budget questions have slowed the process.

MVID faces another uncertainty as it awaits a decision by the state Department of Ecology on the amount of water that will be approved for MVID to deliver to its members. A preliminary decision is anticipated at the end of March, when Ecology is expected to issue a “record of examination” indicating how much water will be available to the district.

Directors John Richardson and Steve Dixon decided Monday to hold a meeting for district members in late April, after they’ve had a chance to evaluate design alternatives and cost estimates, and after Ecology has issued its preliminary determination on district water rights.

The Instream Flow Improvement Project will end MVID’s diversion of water from Twisp River, which provides water for the district’s West Side canal. That diversion has been the source of lawsuits and regulatory actions for two decades. The district’s East Side canal diverts water from the Methow River.

The project will result in a smaller district with many members converting to wells for irrigation. District directors emphasized their desire to ensure that the district’s 280 members have irrigation water after the project is completed.