Royal City farmer settles illegal groundwater use fine

Tri-City HeraldApril 2, 2014 

A farmer from the Royal City area has reached a settlement agreement with the state Department of Ecology after illegally irrigating crops on Frenchman Hills.

Farrah Wardenaar will pay $40,000 of a fine of more than $59,000 that Ecology issued last fall, according to an news release from the department. Wardenaar received and appealed an order to stop irrigating her property in July 2013, but continued to do so, Ecology said.

Wardenaar illegally irrigated three crops with groundwater pumped from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project, Ecology said. She pumped 100 acre feet of water outside its authorized location.

An acre foot is enough to cover an acre of land in a foot of water, meaning Wardenaar illegally used around 32.6 million gallons of water.

Wardenaar has agreed to withdraw her appeal and pay the fine. Ecology said the remaining $19,000 will be dismissed after three years if she meets the settlement conditions and does not illegally irrigate.

Ecology will also provide technical assistance to show Wardenaar where she can draw water from according to her water use permit.

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