WALLA WALLA - A major expansion of a center exploring new ways to manage water resources got its official debut Friday.
The $6.8 million project at the William A. Grant Water & Environment Center added laboratories, classrooms and offices to the facility located at Walla Walla Community College. Officials say the new addition will boost efforts to protect the Walla Walla Basin watershed and further research into the basin's ecosystem.
Nearly half of the project funding came from a $3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Additional support came from Walla Walla County, the Port of Walla Walla, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Pacific Power Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program.
The collaborative effort between the college, the tribes and others to build the addition was a central theme in remarks by speakers at Friday's dedication. "We had a powerful idea, but not a single cent," said community college President Steven VanAusdle about the beginning of the project.
Along with VanAusdle, speakers included CTUIR Chairman Les Minthorn, state Rep. Maureen Walsh, city of Walla Walla Mayor Barbara Clark, Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Mike Fredrickson, Grant Pfeifer, eastern regional manager for the state Department of Ecology; and David Porter of the Economic Development Administration.
Porter said one of the most lasting effects of the expanded center will be the students it will train for the tasks of solving the ecological and other challenges facing not only the Walla Walla River watershed but all other communities as well.
"You are the vanguard of a global mandate and a humanitarian mission," he said.
Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwubcom or 526-8318.