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WA: Ecology buying water rights from irrigators at pennies on the dollar to “sell back” at a profit?

Letter to the Editor:

Posted 3/30/2013

As a Realtor and property owner in Skagit County I’ve followed the Skagit water wars closely.  I am also a property owner, dependent on irrigation water in Okanagon County where I have been involved in DOE/Tribal lawsuits for 20 years.

This is a state wide issue that goes far beyond any local jurisdiction.  In Eastern Washington water shortages are not created by government agencies or tribes attempting to move forward their political agendas.  They can be a reality.  Therefore most water rights are secured by deed and superior to any claims by the State or DOE.

In these cases Ecology and the Tribes have brought in federal Regulators to assist, and even though the water is an actual right, the State is still able to take it from the landowners.  They just continue to sue, when they lose on In Stream Flow because of the senior water rights of the landowners, they start with the  Endangered Species Act.   Eventually they either wear the people out or defeat them economically so they can no longer fight back.

My irrigation district in Eastern Washington has been beaten down to where most of the members have lost the desire to fight back.  The actual ditches will serve about 30% of the people it served in the mid 1990’s once Ecology closes down the next section.  Farmers have had their water rights of 4 acre ft/year reduced to 2.8 acre ft/yr.  That is when many of the farmers realized that the government agencies weren’t actually providing financial assistance to help them out, but were actually buying their water rights at pennies on the dollar and assigning those rights to the Department of Ecology.  It’s a mess.

That is the goal here in Skagit County also, to force everyone to buy expensive water from government agencies.

Mike Newman
Skagit County

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