SALEM — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill to ease ditch-cleaning regulations for farmers after previously indicating she might veto the measure.

House Bill 2437 increases the amount of sediment that can be removed from drainage ditches without a remove-fill permit. It passed 42-17 in the House, and 18-9 in the Senate.

Brown previously issued a notice of potential veto for HB 2437 after hearing from “numerous organizations” that the bill goes too far in its changes and could threaten water quality, wildlife and wetland habitat.

However, Brown said HB 2437 was crafted by a collaborative group of farmers, lawmakers and conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy. It requires reporting of remove-fill activities back to the Legislature, and incorporates into statute protective conditions that traditionally appear in remove-fill permits.

“I am expecting a full report in 2021 from the Department of Agriculture on permitted activities under this legislation, and I look forward to evaluating it for its successes in protecting wetlands and native wildlife in a way that works for the agricultural community,” Brown said in a letter sent Aug. 9 to Secretary of State Bev Clarno.

Under current rules, farmers can only remove up to 50 cubic yards of dirt from a ditch per year without a fill-removal permit. HB 2437 increases the amount up to 3,000 cubic yards per mile of ditch over five years. Farmers must notify regulators when work is done, and can only do work when the ditches are dry.

In a statement released by the Oregon Farm Bureau, the group thanked Brown for signing the bill and Reps. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro; David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford; and Brian Clem, D-Salem, for their leadership.

“We look forward to working with the governor to address her concerns during implementation,” the Farm Bureau wrote. “We thank the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited for coming to the table, rolling up their sleeves and helping solve this long-standing issue.”

Recommended for you