Department of Ecology News Release - December 2, 2015

Columbia County orchardist fined for illegal irrigation during drought

DAYTON – A Columbia County orchardist illegally watered a 100-acre apple and pear orchard after being ordered to stop irrigating during Washington’s historic drought.

The Washington Department of Ecology required 67 irrigators to stop irrigating in July and August 2015 to help save water for endangered fish and farmers with more senior rights to the water.

Warren Orchards continued to irrigate at night, and will pay $73,530 for illegally using more than 90-acre-feet of water from the Touchet River.

Ecology staff witnessed owner and operator Robert Warren illegally irrigating his orchard at night on Aug. 18 after having received the cease order.

Warren was issued a second order on Aug. 22 to disconnect the power to irrigation pumps and provide his water meter data to Ecology.

Metering data showed that Warren illegally diverted water from the Touchet River over a period of 44 days, impairing other irrigators who had rights to the water.

Warren’s illegal water use also reduced the flow of the Touchet River for nearly 50 miles, which provides critical habitat for threatened steelhead.

Warren can appeal the penalty and order to the Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

Contacts:

Brook Beeler, communications, 509-329-3478, @ecyspokane