Federal agency wants to shut down Methow Valley Irrigation; Skagit County Farmers must commit to buffer plan, more


from the WA Farm Bureau's newsletter

April 18, 2002 - 


THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE IS SEEKING A COURT ORDER TO SHUT down the Methow Valley Irrigation District. (Wenatchee World, April 17) A hearing was set for today in U.S. District Court in Spokane. In court documents filed Friday, NMFS said the irrigation district had failed to replace a gravity-fed diversion system with wells and pressurized pipes, as it agreed to do in June 2000. NMFS said allowing the district to operate this summer “is reasonably certain to cause the unlawful taking” of endangered steelhead and salmon. Richard Price, an attorney for the irrigators, said the district has been negotiating with the fisheries service for a year to amend the agreement. He added that the irrigation district was never required to install pressurized pipe, as long as it was in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Price said he believes NMFS is trying to force the irrigators to accept a final agreement.  


SKAGIT COUNTY FARMERS WHO MUST COMMIT TO A STREAM BUFFER PLAN BY next month will have one less option after next week. (Skagit Valley Herald, April 17) The County Commission has agreed to scrap its Managed Agriculture Riparian Plan, which calls for 75-foot buffers. In February, county planners estimated that installing trees and fences along the managed buffers and paying farmers for their land could cost $54 million, while the county had only budgeted $2 million. Last fall, a Thurston County Superior Court judge also ruled that Skagit County didn’t have enough science to justify 75-foot buffers. The three remaining options are the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which requires wider buffers, but pays the growers more; the federal Conservation Farm Management Plan, which looks at the entire farm plan; and a Custom Buffer Plan that puts the burden on farmers to develop the science to support individualized buffers. 


PACIFIC SALMON HAVE EXPERIENCED HUGE SHIFTS IN POPULATION OVER THE past 2,000 years that coincide with major changes in climate, according to a study published in “Nature.” (AP/Seattle Times, April 18) Researchers found that Alaska’s Karluk Lake, on Kodiak Island, supported about 3 million sockeye 2,200 years ago. The salmon population had plunged to about 100,000 a hundred years later, and stayed low until about 800 years ago. The population then surged again, until commercial fishing drove the numbers down around 1900. Researchers said the findings indicate that fish managers should consider global warming as they plan harvests over the long term.


Ó 2002 Washington Farm Bureau. NewsWatch is a daily update on news of interest to agriculture. Contact Dean Boyer, director of public relations, 1-800-331-3276 or dboyer@wsfb.com, to receive NewsWatch by fax or e-mail.

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