Pasco Company Says $ 304,000 Fine Violated Washington State Irrigation Law


A Franklin County company is appealing a fine of $ 304,000 imposed by the Washington State Department of Ecology, which says it irrigated without the proper water rights.

Courtesy Ecology Department

A Pasco land company appealed a fine of $ 304,000 for water use, claiming the Washington State Department of Ecology acted illegally.

The Ecology Department fined Frank Tiegs LLC for irrigating land in the McNary Pool of the Snake River without prior approval, despite the company having sufficient unused water rights to cover the water it she was using, depending on the call.

At the same time, the Department of Ecology has retroactively approved the use of water by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on neighboring farmland, allowing paperwork to be completed after the fact.

“There was and is no substantial difference between the two sets of water rights,” according to the appeal filed with the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

In both cases, the water was available for use, according to the appeal, but Frank Tiegs LLC was also not allowed to complete paperwork after irrigation began on the 250 acres in question, according to the ‘call.

Frank Tiegs told the Tri-City Herald he believed the water use was legal or that he would not have started irrigating the property.

The appeal points out that Frank Tiegs LLC has had no previous green fines, “despite large operations and complex portfolios of water rights.”

The appeal also argues that the Department of Ecology did not first attempt to ensure voluntary compliance by offering information and technical assistance in writing, as required by state law.

Frank Tiegs LLC had initiated the process with an environmental manager for retroactive approval after being told he was not in compliance.

They were discussing the transfer of water rights, as granted to the Ministry of Natural Resources, when other Ecology officials, including a regional director, intervened and the fine was imposed.

“The intervention (…) was premature and served no purpose,” said the appeal.

There was no immediate harm to other water rights or public resources, such as water for fish or wildlife, the call said.

The The Ministry of Ecology declared in an Oct. 20 press release, the company’s illegal use of water “threatened the flows of the Columbia and Snake Rivers – critical rivers for salmon and rainbow trout.” It was one of the driest and warmest on record for Washington, with stream flows and fish passage already compromised. “

But Tiegs said his company had rights to at least 400 acres of water it was not using and that the unused water was flowing into the Columbia River.

The Ministry of Ecology declined to comment on the call.

Other non-irrigated land

Ecology officials accused him of illegally irrigating 250 acres of crops in the last growing season.

Frank Tiegs LLC did not irrigate the adjacent land he owned in order to irrigate the 250 newly planted acres in issue for the first time in 2021, the call says. He started the process of drying out parts of neighboring land in 2019 with a view to planting the area in 2021.

According to the latest calculations, the company set aside 223 acres without irrigation, lacking water for the last 27 acres of new land.

But when Ecology officials informed the company it was not in compliance, the company reconfigured its crop circle irrigation to fall to 225 acres of irrigated land and submitted maps to Ecology. showing how the new setup reduced current irrigation, says a company representative. .

In addition, Frank Tiegs LLC had 50 acres of water that had been temporarily turned over to Ecology, as well as other water with an active application to move it, which was more than enough to cover the 27 acres, according to the call. .

Checking the availability of water would have taken Ecology about two hours, he said.

In fact, Ecology told Frank Tiegs LLC that the water could be used for a seasonal transfer to cover the ground in 2022, but that it could not be used for 2021, even though nothing was used this year. there, depending on the call.

The decision to immediately impose a penalty rather than mitigate “was arbitrary, capricious and against the law,” the appeal said.

The company is asking the Pollution Control Hearings Board to reverse the sanction and allow a retroactive transfer, in line with the precedent it set with the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

If the board maintains the penalty, the amount should be significantly reduced, he said.

Tiegs also owns Based in Pasco, Washington Potato Co., the Washington plant of Oregon Potato Co., also headquartered in Pasco. Frank Tiegs LLC is jointly owned but a separate business.

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Annette Cary, editor, covers Hanford, energy, environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for over 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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