(Washington, D.C.) Senator Patty Murray today announced the Senate fiscal year 2004 Interior Appropriations bill includes $500,000 to conduct a study on the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. The funding is provided through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the legislation yesterday.

"Funding for the Aquifer Study in the Senate Interior bill was a very high priority for me again this year," Senator Murray said. "I am extremely pleased the Committee responded by providing $500,000 for the Aquifer Study. It is in the best interests of Spokane County, Washington and Kootenai County, Idaho for this study to move forward so we can get the information we need to protect the region’s drinking water while still accommodating economic growth."

The need for the study stemmed from proposals to build three power plants in Idaho which would draw down 20 million gallons of water per day from the Aquifer, which is the sole source of drinking water for about 400,000 people in the region. Rather than approve the permits for the power plants, local governments, business leaders and environmental organizations agreed that more information about the Aquifer is needed.

"This process exemplifies what our region can accomplish when have a common vision and cooperation from states, the federal government and the community," Murray said.

Senator Murray worked closely with Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) to secure this funding. The USGS has entered into an agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology and the Idaho Departments of Water Resources and Environmental Quality to develop a work plan for the Aquifer Study. Both states have also committed resources to support the Study. The language in the Senate Interior bill requires the $500,000 federal contribution to be matched “in part” by Washington and Idaho.

Next, this funding must pass the full Senate and be reconciled with the House.