Operator says he worked with USDA to resolve issues

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

A Pullman, Wash., feedlot operator says he will contest a $24,000 fine from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The department says Marcus Jacobson continued to discharge polluted water from his feedlot into a tributary of the South Fork Palouse River after receiving a $4,000 fine in September 2010.

The department says Jacobson paid the original fine, but only made "minor corrections" and failed to eliminate runoff from the feedlot.

Jacobson told the Capital Press he "absolutely" plans to appeal the fine. Penalties and orders issued by the department may be appealed within 30 days of receipt to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Jacobson said his operation has about 100 head of cattle and is about a mile from the river.

"It's only at certain times during the year that I might have a problem, and it's not like I've been continual," he said. "I'm not today polluting that river."

Jacobson said he made moves to address the department's concerns.

"Sometimes I don't think you're fast enough for what they want," he said. "And I can't make things grow, either. It will be taken care of, as far as I'm concerned."

Department water quality specialist Chad Atkins is not aware of another situation where a producer has been penalized multiple times.

Atkins said the department rarely penalizes producers, trying instead to encourage them to fix the issue through technical and financial help.

"It's rare we have to penalize at all," he said.

The department hoped the first, lower penalty would be sufficient to get Jacobson's attention, Atkins said.

"We have additional tools to help us get the fixes we need," he said. "We're hoping to get to clean water, and we're going to try again and make every effort to help him and get him the tools he needs to get the best management practices implemented on the ground."

Atkins recommends producers work with the department upfront if the necessary steps to protect surface water are going to be cost-effective to their operation, he said.

The department said Ecology and the Palouse Conservation District offered Jacobson financial and technical help to implement best management practices. They say Jacobson declined the help and failed to take action, but Jacobson said help was never forthcoming. He received help through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jacobson said.

Jacobson called for more oversight for the department.

"This is not a court order," he said. "It's like you saying, 'I don't like what you're doing and I can give you a fine without really having to prove it,'" he said. "That appeals board is not necessarily a third party. It's a pretty tough situation. I've got to prove my point, too."

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