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Farmer fined $59,443 in irrigation dispute

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

The Washington Department of Ecology has fined a Royal City farmer close to $60,000 for alleged illegal irrigation of cropland. Ecology has fined the family $270,000 over the years.

ROYAL CITY, Wash. — A Royal City farmer has been fined $59,443 by the state Department of Ecology for alleged illegal irrigation of cropland in 2012 and 2013.

The farmer, Farrah Wardenaar, said she was surprised by the fine and will appeal it.

“The permits I received refer to an anticline (a geologic) line. I hired a surveyor to come out and determine where the line was, but we can’t get specific coordinates or data to tell us where the line is,” Wardenaar told Capital Press.

“I thought I was making progress but apparently not,” she said. She declined further comment.

Wardenaar is the daughter of Mike Brown, an owner in a large family farm in the area which, along with its affiliates, has been fined $270,000 by Ecology over the years for water quality, air quality and hazardous waste violations, said Brook Beeler, an Ecology spokeswoman in Spokane.

Wardenaar has permits to use 3.5 acre-feet of water per acre per year for certain acreage within the boundary of the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, Beeler said.

However, Wardenaar used more than 100 acre-feet of water outside the boundary, which is a violation of her Ecology permits, Beeler said.

A single acre-foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons, covering one acre of land one foot deep.

From March to July of 2012, Wardenaar applied water to 24 acres of black beans and from March to June 2013 to 32.5 acres of peas, later replanted to sweet corn, Beeler said. Both areas were outside the irrigation project, she said.

Ecology sent Wardenaar letters advising her to stop irrigating outside project boundaries in 2012 and offered assistance to correct her actions, Beeler said. Further efforts were made to get voluntary compliance before a cease and desist order was issued in July 2013, Beeler said.

Wardenaar continued irrigation after the cease and desist order, Beeler said. The $59,443 fine, issued Nov. 20, is the estimate of the value of the crops, she said. Wardenaar has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Irrigating outside the boundary interferes with state and federal managers’ ability to provide adequate water for legal users, Beeler said.

Columbia Basin Project water is tightly managed to benefit users, fish and wildlife, she said. Water from it that is used outside the boundaries runs off and can’t be reused in the project, she said. Runoff within the boundaries in that area flows to the Potholes Reservoir where it can be further used, she said.



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