Land Company Says Wa Violated State Law With $304,000 Fine

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A southeast Washington land company is appealing a $304,000 fine over water use, saying the Washington state Department of Ecology acted unlawfully.

The Department of Ecology fined Frank Tiegs LLC in Pasco for allegedly irrigating land from the Snake River’s McNary Pool this year without previous authorization.

The company’s appeal says it had sufficient unused water rights to cover the water it used, The Tri-City Herald reported.

The appeal also says the Department of Ecology retroactively approved water use by the Washington state Department of Natural Resources on neighboring farm land, allowing paperwork to be done after the fact.

“There was and is no substantive difference between the two sets of water rights,” according to the appeal filed with the Washington state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

In both cases water was available for use, the appeal said, but Frank Tiegs LLC was not also allowed to complete paperwork after irrigation began on 250 acres at issue, the appeal said.

Frank Tiegs told the Tri-City Herald he believed the water use was legal or would not have started irrigating the property.

The appeal points out that Frank Tiegs LLC has had no previous Ecology fines, “despite large operations and complex portfolios of water rights.”

The appeal also argues that the Department of Ecology failed to first attempt to secure voluntary compliance by offering information and technical assistance in writing as required by state law.

The Department of Ecology said in an Oct. 20 news release that the company’s illegal use of water “threatened streamflows on the Columbia and Snake rivers — critical rivers for salmon and steelhead. This was one of the driest and warmest on record for Washington with stream flows and fish passage already compromised.”

There was no immediate harm to other water rights or to public resources, such as water for fish or wildlife, the appeal said.

The Department of Ecology declined to comment on the appeal.