The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a $304,000 penalty to Frank Tiegs LLC for illegally irrigating 250 acres of crops in Franklin County in 2021.
As part of its investigation, Ecology found Tiegs LLC tilled the unfarmed land and planted a crop in early 2021 and began irrigating from McNary Pool in March. McNary Pool is part of the Snake River where it meets the main stem of the Columbia River.
During the summer of 2021, Ecology inquired about the water use. Tiegs representatives acknowledged the irrigation error and have committed to find a legal water supply for the 2022 irrigation season. The illegal water use threatened streamflows on the Columbia and Snake rivers – critical rivers for salmon and steelhead. This year was one of the driest and warmest on record for Washington with streamflows and fish passage already compromised.
Since 1993, the Columbia River has been managed under a rule that requires mitigation for new surface water withdrawals. The mitigation must replace or offset the water used under a new right. Ecology has spent significant time and money to develop programs to make water available to offset new water use for cities, industries and irrigated farms.
Frank Tiegs LLC has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.