A grant request to build a second deep well in Mosier, moving a heavy agricultural user out of a depleting aquifer currently being used by the town, was declined at this time.
The Oregon Water Resources Commission told the grant seekers to come back with more information for reconsideration in the next funding cycle. The project was ranked just below a group of projects proposed for funding: It was listed ninth of 17 projects, with staffers recommending the first eight be funded.
The $671,724 grant request would help fund a total project cost of $906,911. The proposed deep well would remove the final of the two largest irrigators from the compromised aquifers in the Mosier Critical Groundwater Area.
Orchardist Bryce Molesworth agreed to be the guinea pig for building the first deep well earlier this year. That project was successful, but proved to be expensive. Money anticipated to pay for both wells was largely used on the first well.
Now orchardist Wade Root is prepared to dig a second deep well, tapping into a much lower aquifer than the ones that currently serve Mosier and the Mosier Valley.
In support letters for the project, Root and others said the project was shovel-ready, with water rights obtained, archaeological surveys complete, and contractor hired.
Like Molesworth, Root is making a significant investment of his own money in the project.
One point of concern was that if the grant wasn’t funded, the well driller would be freed from the current contract and would be able to negotiate a new, presumably more expensive, one.
The Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District wrote that the time to drill the well was now because future costs would likely be significantly higher due to inflation, recent steel tariffs and rising fuel prices.
Water levels in the aquifers serving Mosier have dropped precipitously over recent decades. The state, through a grant called the Mosier Million, agreed to fund work to start addressing the problem.
Fixes included abandoning the most critically commingling wells and digging two new deeper wells for the two largest agricultural users.
So far, nine wells have been abandoned and replaced, and another seven such wells are scheduled to be replaced next year.
Commingling wells are those that are not properly sealed around the outside of the pipe, allowing water to travel up or down between aquifers.
Wells have gone dry over the years as overuse and commingling deplete aquifers.
The drawdown is so severe it has dried up groundwater discharge to a mile-long stretch of Mosier Creek, a supporter wrote.