A dispute is brewing between an Oregon farmer and an irrigation district over the ownership of land underlying a canal.

Farmer Jim Gordon and his company, Kodiak Ventures, claimed ownership of the land beneath the canal through the “quiet title” process, under which property ownership uncertainties are resolved.

The previous owners of the property deeded all the land to Gordon, but mistakenly excluded the land beneath the irrigation canal and laterals, said Paul Sumner, his attorney.

After Gordon issued a public notice of the legal action, the North Unit Irrigation District — which operates the canal — filed a motion to intervene in the case.

The irrigation district claims to actually own the land beneath the canal, which it has operated since 1948, and has requested a state judge to reject Gordon’s claim.

Capital Press was unable to reach the NUID’s manager, Mike Britton, or its attorney, Alan Stewart, for comment as of press time.

Sumner said the implications of the NUID’s claim are “very troubling” because it would effectively mean that irrigation districts own the land beneath canals.

“If this argument is correct, it would be correct for every canal,” he said.

Sumner said the irrigation district simply has the right to operate the canal, but Gordon should have the right to own the underlying property.

Otherwise, he and other farmers could face land use restrictions based on parcel size or be denied access across property owned by irrigation districts, Sumner said.

It’s likely that NUID wants ownership of the property underlying the canal to build hydroelectric facilities without having to buy the land, he said.

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