Local News

Ecology and Methow Valley Irrigation District settle lawsuits

Mar 28, 2011

The Washington Department of Ecology and the Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID) have signed an agreement that settles all penalties and legal disputes outstanding since 2003.

In addition, the parties have agreed to a yearly schedule for incrementally reducing the amount of water the district will divert to improve streamflows, with a final required reduction to be achieved by
the year 2016.

Under the terms of the agreement, lawsuits pending before the Court of Appeals, Okanogan County Superior Court, and the Pollution Control Hearings Board will be dismissed.

In 2002, Ecology ordered the district to limit water it diverted from the Twisp and Methow rivers on the basis that the district was unlawfully wasting water. The Methow Valley watershed is one of 16
fish-critical basins where reduced streamflows are a concern for endangered and migrating fish species. In 2003, the order was upheld by the state's Pollution Control Hearings Board and later challenged by the irrigation district to Superior Court and the Court of Appeals.

A number of orders, notices, and penalties totaling $37,200, were issued by Ecology in an attempt to bring the district into compliance. These orders and penalties were appealed by MVID.

Under the terms of the settlement, in lieu of paying the penalties, MVID agrees to draft and submit a schedule of projects designed to help it comply with court-affirmed limits and administrative orders related to diversion rates. The projects, to total $37,200, will be paid for by patron assessments. Projects must be implemented by Dec. 31, 2015.

MVID also agrees to measure all flows diverted into the East and West Canals, beginning this irrigation season in accordance with an Ecology administrative order.

Ecology will actively support MVIDs efforts to secure funding to comply with the orders, including letters of support of funding applications and attending meetings, when requested. Ecology also will
give priority to processing applications from the district or its patrons to move surface water withdrawals to groundwater wells. Seasonal groundwater withdrawals are expected to have less impact on surface water flows.

"Ecology is excited to return to a collaborative working relationship with the district. Our goal is to work with the MVID to both improve flows in the Twisp River and ensure reliable service is provided to district patrons" said Mark Schuppe, Water Resources section manager for Ecology.

Settlement negotiations have been under way since 2007.

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