By John L. Braese
VALE – With the irrigation season at an end, county officials have a warning for next year’s users: Watering a county road will cost cash and possibly water.
After issuing more than 30 warnings last year, many to repeat offenders watering roads instead of crops, Malheur County Road Master Richard Moulton told the Malheur County Court that warnings aren’t working.
“I have even gone to the irrigation districts asking for their help in this problem,” Moulton said. “They say they will help, but they will not enforce anything.”
Moulton was under the impression only the sheriff’s office could take the next step of issuing a citation. Such citations can cost an irrigator up to $500 for a first offense with further offenses costing up to $1,000 per day.
Moulton has enlisted the help of an ally who can shut off irrigation water.
“I am here to support the county,” said state watermaster Ron Jacobs. “An irrigation right does not include the right to water a road. The state can step in on cases and take control of the head gate.”
Moulton said the problem occurs with irrigators using pivot lines with large pressure guns on the end. The guns spray water over the edge of fields.
“The guns are programmable and can shut off at a certain point and then restart,” said Moulton.
The amount of water spreading over a road can cause quite a bit of work for county road crews.
“Last year, the road department spent a full two weeks fixing one road,” Moulton said. “We have been out just recently to help people stuck in mud. And the guy that caused the mud we had warned over and over again.”
Moulton also has the support of police.
“We look for voluntary compliance, but it is an aggravation to me,” said Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe. “My office has asked for an ordinance officer for some time to deal with problems like this. My deputies just don’t have time to issue citations.”
Even when law enforcement becomes involved, the problem isn’t fixed, according to Wolfe.
“The deputies go out and issue warnings and people just ignore them,” he said.
Moulton said some of the repeat offenders sit on irrigation boards.
“An irrigation district can shut down a person if there is a problem,” he said. “Both Owyhee and Vale districts are a problem as two of the biggest offenders sit on the Vale board.”
Led by County Commissioner Don Hodge, the court told both Moulton and Jacobs the county would back actions, including citations, issued to offenders.
“We will back you,” Hodge said. “It is just a few guys that need to change the way they do things.”
News tip? Contact reporter John L. Braese at 541-473-3377 or [email protected].
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