A Franklin County, Wash., farm has appealed a $304,000 fine levied by the Department of Ecology for allegedly irrigating 250 acres of peas and sweet corn last summer without a permit.
Frank Tiegs LLC filed the appeal Nov. 4 with the Pollution Control Hearings Board. The farm’s attorney, James Buchal, said Monday that Tiegs didn’t use more water than he was entitled to use.
“We’ll be showing the water was there and available,” he said.
Ecology claims the farm illegally irrigated for 152 days from the Snake River’s McNary Pool. Ecology fined the farm $2,000 a day.
The agency is not aware of any water rights that were impaired by the irrigation, agency spokesman Jimmy Norris said in an email.
According to the appeal, the farm had fallowed 223 acres and covered the other 27 acres with water that had been held in trust by Ecology. The trust allows water users to temporarily leave water in rivers and streams without relinquishing the water right.
According to Ecology, the Columbia Basin water master sent Tiegs LLC a letter Aug. 4 asking by what right the land was being irrigated.
Ecology and the farm discussed cutting back or ceasing irrigation entirely on some fields to offset the water use, according to the agency.
The water master checked Sept. 20 and concluded the water-saving measures had not been implemented, according to Ecology.
Benton County Water Conservancy Board chairman Darryll Olsen, who helped prepare the appeal, said irrigation equipment had been reconfigured to use less water.
Ecology fined the farm rather than try to work out a resolution, Olsen said. “The whole thing was totally unnecessary,” he said.
The appeal alleges that while Tiegs was fined, Ecology retroactively transferred a water right on adjacent farmland leased by Tiegs from the Department of Natural Resources.
Ecology disagrees that the two cases are similar except that both involved Tiegs, Norris said. Ecology is still investigating whether to penalize Tiegs or DNR, he said.