Repairs to Wapato irrigation system almost complete

WAPATO, Wash. -- There's still work to be done after last summer's irrigation breakdown in Wapato. KIMA is following up on the problem that left dozens of Lower Valley farmers with damaged crops.

Administrators with the Wapato Irrigation Project say everything should be ready soon.

Thousands of acres of land damaged. Broken irrigation pumps left massive damage to crops in the Lower Valley. It's something Wapato Irrigation Project Administrator Edwin Lewis is working to fix.

"It's a rare circumstance, but we want to make sure it does not happen again," said Lewis.

Two water pumps are currently getting repaired. That's expected to be completed next month. A motor is also getting rebuilt. That should be done around Memorial Day.

Lewis said a contract should ensure the projects will be finished on time.

"If they do not deliver, if they're one day late, they're penalized financially for that, so there's an incentive for them to meet that deadline," said Lewis.

New fail-safe mechanisms will also be built into the irrigation system. So, if something were to break again, the pipes wouldn't burst. The revamped equipment should last 20 years.

"We have many challenges here, and we're working to resolve those challenges," said Lewis. "It just takes a little bit of time, but we're getting there. We're making progress."

Lewis said damage claims filed by farmers on the Wapato Irrigation Project are still getting reviewed. It's possible decisions on the claims could be made in a couple of months.

"We know it's their livelihood," said Lewis. "They've invested huge amounts of time, effort and money into their land."

Water bills in the Wapato Irrigation Project went up an additional $5 an acre. That covers operations and maintenance costs.