Clear Victory for Agriculture on Water Rights

Posted 6/6/2010

from Washington FB News

On May 5, Franklin County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge issued her summary judgment order in a controversial lawsuit dealing with water rights. Runge granted summary judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs: Easterday, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the ag interveners, which included Washington Farm Bureau.

The ruling reinforces exactly what WFB has been saying on behalf of its members, including Easterday Ranches, all along: there is no limitation on the watering of livestock from exempt wells. This opinion follows Judge Runge’s verbal ruling from the bench on April 2.

“We got exactly what we wanted and the agriculture community needed in this ruling,” stated Steve Appel, WFB President. “This is a clear victory for agriculture. This ruling provides certainty to our livestock industry which has relied on the permit exemption since 1945.”

Judge Renge’s ruling, definitively stating that there is no ambiguity regarding the 1945 statute exempting stockwater from the permit process, allows producers to have the security that they need to care for their livestock and continue to farm.

“Anything short of this outcome would have put law abiding ranchers in an untenable position,” stated John Stuhlmiller, WFB Director of Government Relations. “Without legal access to water, many livestockoperations would be unable to get operating capital and would likely be forced out of business.”
Easterday Ranches is a Washington Farm Bureau member and had enlisted the help of Farm Bureau to fight this battle on behalf of agriculture in Washington. Easterday is expanding its operation to build a 30,000-cattle feedlot near Eltopia, Washington.

The original lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Five Corners Family Farmers, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and the Sierra Club, challenged a 2005 attorney general opinion that feedlots could use unlimited amounts of groundwater for stockwatering without a permit.