Our Voice: Thumbs up to KID for Red Mountain irrigation project

June 10, 2013 

The Kennewick Irrigation District is considering taking some of its land out of the Red Mountain project so other property owners can get the water.

KID can save about $1.2 million in development costs with its plan to take 111 of its 620 acres on Red Mountain out of the project and letting other owners opt in.

Even with the savings, the move doesn't necessarily make financial sense for KID. Irrigated land in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area can go for about $35,000 an acre. So, the 111 acres might fetch more than $3.8 million but only if it's irrigated.

Without water, it's worth only a fraction as much. But KID will still have 509 acres in the project. The potential for profit still is huge.

But KID is a public agency created to bring water to landowners in the district, not to turn a profit from land development.

The Red Mountain project, which will bring Yakima River water to one of the state's best wine grape-growing regions, fits the bill. Bringing water to KID's own land so it can command a higher price down the road really isn't part of the mandate.

The Red Mountain project is limited to irrigating only up to 1,785 acres, and there are nine property owners who have asked to add about 221 acres to the project.

The KID board hasn't made a decision on the transfer, but looking for ways to provide additional water to Mid-Columbia growers is a step in the right direction.

It's exactly what KID was created to do.

Outrageous excess

Thumbs down to the Internal Revenue Service by adding insult to injury with revelations of extravagant spending in the agency coming on the heels of the scandal over politically motivated targeting of conservative groups.

Americans already were outraged to learn that groups seeking tax exempt status got special scrutiny if their names include terms like "tea party" or "patriot."

And while our ire was up, we learned that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has found that the IRS spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, featuring some luxurious perks for IRS officials.

An August 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates, even though that is standard government practice, cost taxpayers $4 million.

Instead of lower rates, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including free drinks and lodging in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night.

IRS officials say that stricter rules for travel and conference would prevent similar abuses from occurring today.

That's good, but it's not enough to erase the shame of abusing and ripping off the American people.

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