What is Title Transfer?
Ever since the modern Kennewick Irrigation District (KID) went online with deliveries beginning in 1957, most of the irrigation facilities (canals, laterals, and Amon pump station) have been owned by the federal government, specifically the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Due to the fact that constructing the system was a large and expensive endeavor for its time (almost 5 million dollars), and the need for the system was due in part to removal of local irrigated farmlands from production to make way for the federal Hanford project, federal involvement was sought by the local community and finally authorized by Congress in 1948.
This partnership with the federal government was necessary to construct the infrastructure needed to bring irrigation water from Kiona to Hover, irrigating farms and residential neighborhoods along the way. However, as areas of Benton County, including parts of West Richland, south Richland, and Kennewick have grown over the years, development pressures have required easements to be moved or abandoned in some cases, and it is not an easy or quick process for the federal government to process these requests in a timely fashion.
The good news is that there is a solution. Title transfer is the process of transferring ownership of federally-owned irrigation facilities over to the local communities that they serve. The
process, as expected, can be long arduous, but legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in 2019 has greatly streamlined the requirements for relatively simple transfers. KID is a beneficiary of this new legislation and has actively been working to receive ownership of the “transferred works,” or that portion of the system that KID has already operated and maintained from the beginning. This is the system of canals and laterals from the head gate of the Main Canal all the way to the system terminus at the Hover Waste-way.
The benefits of title transfer to the community are substantial. KID has the staff and capacity to process landowner requests in a timely fashion. The district has staff dedicated to environmental reviews required under state law. Title transfer will give the district flexibility needed to engage the broader community on best use of our infrastructure, including the potential for linear parks and walking paths. Also notable is that the cost to the district for title transfer has been minimal; the district has already collected enough funds to repay our portion of the construction costs, and nothing more is owed to make the federal government whole. Funds have been spent by the district on cultural and environmental studies and related mitigation to ensure no harm to the environment or cultural resources will occur.
At long last, on January 18th, 2022, the district completed the process that took over four years. The district would like to extend special thanks to Representative Dan Newhouse for his support of this effort, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Yakama Nation for their willingness to work with us to make this project a success. The district also would like to thank Reclamation for their commitment to the project. Without these partnerships, title transfer would not be possible.