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Worried Washington Farmers Plead For Help To Water Fruit Trees

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Becuase of the drawdown. this irrigation pipe for cherry orchards that lies four miles downstream from Rock Island Dam cannot reach water in the Wanapum pool.

In central Washington, state officials and farmers are scrambling to save orchards at risk of drying up because of a drawdown of the Columbia River.

It's due to a major crack in Wanapum Dam.

Pear growers say they’re already spraying their orchards and they need plenty of water for that. The next thing that will take a lot of water is spraying to protect buds from killing frost. Then, as the heat comes on, irrigation ramps up.

Nearly 100 worried irrigators packed an informational meeting in Wenatchee Thursday night. Farmers questioned officials from state government, the area dam operators and irrigation districts. They asked what it would take to extend intake pipes and water pumps.

Some farmers left the meeting reassured, while others are still apprehensive.

It’s not only irrigators, but also rural homeowners who’ve gone dry. Drinking water wells are failing as the water table near the shriveled Columbia River drops.

So far, the owners of Wanapum Dam don’t know when water levels will rise again -- a fix to the cracked dam appears a ways off.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.