fear new state rules will eliminate flood irrigation
published Oct. 23, 2003
By BRIAN COLE
Proposed agriculture water quality rules could
require some Klamath Basin growers to abandon flood
irrigation, farmers told state officials Wednesday.
The plan is not intended to limit flood irrigation,
but the actual rules do not say that in the draft,
said Tom Mallams, chairman of a local advisory
committee. And flood irrigation may cause water
temperatures to increase and promote nutrient
Mallams said the law the state Agriculture
Department is using to establish water quality rules
"is a zero-tolerance law. Even minute increases in
nutrient loading could be perceived as
Mallams' observation came as the department held the
first of two hearings in Klamath County as part of
its effort to craft an agricultural water quality
plan for the Klamath headwaters.
Since 1995, the department has been writing
agricultural water quality management plans for each
of the state's 39 b asins. The intent is to
eliminate the degradation of state waters.
Thirty-five of them are complete, with the Klamath
watershed and three others left to be completed.
Three Oregon Department of Agriculture officials
conducted a public hearing Tuesday in Klamath Falls.
Eight persons attended the event, of whom two
But the 15-minute public hearing was prefaced by a
lengthy discussion between attendees and the
The department has gotten input from a local
advisory committee, of which, four members attended
the Wednesday hearing: Linda Long, Sue Mattenberg,
Bill Rust, and Mallams.
Mallams said the state is using two laws to create
administrative rules that will govern agricultural
water quality within the Klamath Watershed, and
neither should be used as a basis for forming local
"We don't need either," he said. The local plan
"should be based on local input, including that of
the Klamath County Soil and Water Conservation
District and the Natural Resources Conservation
"They could do the job."
Doug Whitsett, a veterinarian and president of Water
For Life, also spoke at the hearing.
He said the law the state regulators a relying on
was written to regulate what are called "point"
sources of pollution, such as the effluent from
factories and sewage plants. Because it can't be
traced to a single point of discharge, agricultural
runoff is called "non-point."
"This statute was written to regulate point sources
of water pollution," he said. "Its language is
clearly inappropriate for regulation of agricultural
The department is concerned that such runoff might
overload state waters with nutrients, such as
phosphorus. And that it can cause the warming of
water bodies to above the safe level of 64 degrees.
Department water quality planner Timothy Stevenson
said he appreciated the observations made by Mallams
"We cannot eliminate all runoff," he said. "If it is
an issue, we would manage it so that you would limit
Raymond Jaindl, an assistant administrator for the
department, said that each water quality plan is
re-evaluated every two years. After two years in
effect, "a report is issued covering how the rules
worked and if there is a need for changes," he said.
Public comments on the plan will continue at another
public hearing to be held at 6:30 p.m. tonight at
the Sprague River Community Center.
Written comments must be submitted by Nov. 17. To do
so, write to: Oregon Department of Agriculture,
Attn: Klamath Headwaters Public Comment, Natural
Resources Division, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem, OR
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