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Newsletter Fall 2012

2012-2013 BUDGET APPROVED WITH NO FEE INCREASES

The Budget Committee consisting of the three Board Members, Bob Morris, Richard Fujas and Bob Nelson and District patrons Lowell Fowler, Dave Westerberg and Fred Clark met in two public meetings, on August 14th and 28th. It was thought at the conclusion of these meetings that the District would need to make a $5.00 fee increase to the Account Charge and a $2.00 fee increase in the per acre irrigation rate. However, immediately following the conclusion of the August 28th meeting the District received news that the Judge had dismissed the lawsuit that Oregon Wild had filed against the United States Bureau of Reclamation for the Rogue Basin Biological Opinion.

With this news presented at the September 5th board meeting, the Board was able to make adjustments to the budget recommended by the Budget Committee by reducing the funds budgeted for the Consultation Process. This enabled the Board to reassess the recommended fee increases making this five years in a row since that the District has had rate increases.

The District’s current fee schedule is as follows:

Irrigation Fees (charged at a 1 acre minimum)
Account Charge (per tax lot) $ 75.00
Annual Irrigation Charge (per acre) $ 42.00
New Land Inclusion Charge (p/ac) $ 2.00
McDonald System (p/ac) $ 40.00
Annual Supplemental Charge (p/ac) $ 21.00
Bureau Indebtedness (p/ac) $ 6.00
Endangered Species Act (p/ac) $ 2.00

Administrative Fees
Lien Search $ 55.00
Water Right Verification Letter $ 25.00
Lien and Satisfaction of Lien $198.00
Foreclosures given to attorney $150.00
Capital Improvement Transfer
Up to 5 acres $220.00
Each additional acre $ 30.00
Water Right Transfer $550.00
Temporary Instream Leases:
0-5 acres $ 45.00
5.1 to 10 acres $ 90.00
10.1 to 20 acres $135.00
20.1 to 30 acres $175.00
30.1 to 40 acres $220.00
40.1 to 50 acres $265.00
50.1 to 60 acres $310.00
Over 60.1 acres $330.00
Crossing Applications $220.00
Returned Checks $ 30.00
Pond Application $ 55.00
Research Records (per hour) $ 35.00
Copies (first page) $ 0.25
additional pages of same document $ 0.10
Planning Actions—no concerns $ 30.00
Planning Actions—concerns $ 55.00
Planning Actions—on site visits $110.00
Water Truck Application $110.00
Plus charge for each 1,000 gallons $ 10.00

The Board of Directors sincerely appreciates all of the work the Budget Committee members contributed in their extensive review and input into the budgeting process. Had it not been for the welcomed last minute news on the Consultation Process, the budget would have been adopted as recommended by the Budget Committee.

As always the District strives to continue current operations as efficiently as possible.

MEMORIAL TO KEITH W. CORP,JR.
11-22-1940 – 7-22-2012

The District was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of our long time Board Member and friend Mr. Keith W. Corp, Jr. on July 22, 2012. Keith began his service to the District when he was appointed to serve on the District’s Budget Committee from August of 2002 to August of 2004. On September 7, 2004 he was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors and continued his service up until his passing.

Keith did an excellent job for the District during his years of service. He worked hard, attended all meetings regularly, represented the District well and always had the District’s best interest at heart. Keith was always proud to give back to the community and did so by serving on numerous boards and committees. He will be greatly missed.

RECLAMATION REFORM ACT (RRA) FORMS

Any landowner who owns and/or leases irrigated land totaling 40.1 acres or more in the 17 western states must annually file RRA forms with the District office prior to receiving irrigation water.

The Bureau of Reclamation requires that RRA forms be on file prior to any water being delivered to the property you own, operate and/or lease totaling 40.1 acres or more of irrigated land. If your landholdings change in anyway during the year, which includes moving your property into a trust, it is imperative that the landowner contact the District office to update their RRA forms.

The District makes every effort to help landowners comply with the RRA regulations, but it is absolutely the landowner’s responsibility to understand the law and make sure that the correct forms are filled out and on file. Please remember when you make any changes in your landholdings that put you at 40.1 acres or more owned and/or leased, to contact the District office for the necessary RRA forms. The District only updates our ownership records twice a year with Jackson County’s records, so your diligence in communicating any changes you make to your landholdings is of the utmost importance.

For more information please visit the Bureau of Reclamation’s Reclamation Reform website at http://www.usbr.gov/rra/.

NO SPRAY AGREEMENTS

If you are a landowner that wants to request that no chemicals are used to control plant growth on the District’s right of way on your property, you need to annually fill out a No Spray Agreement and file it in the District office by January 1st of each year. If you choose to file a No Spray Agreement this requires you to maintain the right of way through your property.

The forms are available in the office. You may either pick one up or request that one be mailed to you. There are no fees for filing this form.

WELCOMING NEW BOARD OF DIRECTOR BOB NELSON

The Board of Directors is pleased to introduce Bob Nelson as the newest Board Member. Bob served on the District’s budget committee for 5 years before being appointed on August 7, 2012 as interim director after the passing of Director Corp. Bob originally hails from Red Bluff, California.

Bob and his wife Jolene are part owners of the Arrowhead Ranch in Medford. They have lived on the property for sixteen years and own and operate a cutting horse training business. The couple stays extremely busy with the rigorous daily training of the horses.

In what little spare time the couple has they like to fish. In fact Bob was raised on a trout farm and has been fishing since the age of 4. He likes to fish for big fish and is able to do so by living in such close proximity to the Rogue River.

Bob is excited about serving on the Board of Directors and looks forward to helping the District out in any way he can.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION INFORMATION

Richard Fujas’ and Bob Nelsons’ terms of office as members of the Board of Directors expire on December 31, 2012.

Richard Fujas is up for a three year term and Bob Nelson is up for a one year term.

Nominating Petitions for both positions were available in the District office from September 1, 2012 until October 1, 2012. A legal notice was published in the Mail Tribune on Saturday, September 1, 2012 announcing that the petitions were available. The deadline for filing the Nomination Petitions was 4:30 p.m. on Monday, October 1, 2012.

The only Nominating Petitions that were filed by the deadline were from Richard Fujas and Bob Nelson. Since only one Nominating Petition was received for each position, the District will not be holding an election this year.

BEAR CREEK WATERSHED TMDL IMPLEMENTATION PROGRAM

The District has completed its third year of annual reporting for the Bear Creek Watershed Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) Implementation Program. The completed annual report was submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality on September 11, 2012. The purpose of this program is to improve water quality in the Bear Creek Watershed.

Going into the winter months it seems appropriate to talk a bit about Stormwater runoff. This is the water that is generated from rain or snow that falls on hard non-permeable surfaces that runs off and ends up in local streams, rivers and canals. The reason this is a problem is because the ground no longer acts as a sponge absorbing water or filtering pollutants that may be in the water. The Stormwater can also carry debris, chemicals, oil, etc., from the hard surfaces. This results in there being more water and dirtier water ending up in streams and creeks resulting in flooding, erosion, and poor water quality.

All water that flows into the storm drains is taken directly to Bear Creek, then to the Rogue River and finally ending up in the Pacific Ocean. As stewards of the water we all need to be diligent about keeping all potential pollutants off of areas where Stormwater runoff may carry them directly to our waterways in the Rogue Basin. After all, our water supply is a finite resource that is essential for our existence.

If you would like to find more information about Stormwater runoff or other aspects of the TMDL Implementation program please visit the Rogue Valley Council of Governments website at http://rvcog.org/MN.asp?pg=NR_Stormwater_General.

IRRIGATION PAYMENTS

Just a reminder that the District is not set up to accept debit or credit cards. The office receives inquiries each year from people wanting to pay their bills over the phone by debit or credit cards.

The District checked into getting set up to accept debit and credit cards, but because our use of the machines would be minimal, it was not cost effective. Additionally extra fees would have to be passed on to the water users.

Please remit your payments by check, money order or cash.

WISE PROJECT UPDATE

Since the last time you read about the WISE Project, a lot has happened. But before we get into all of that, a quick reminder as to what is proposed with WISE. Simply, WISE looks to improve the irrigation infrastructure of TID, MID and RRVID by piping the canals and saving all of the water that is lost through leakage. This will allow for a host of other benefits as well including providing pressure to irrigation turnouts, hydropower generation, eliminating moss in the canals, and improving water availability. In addition to piping all of the canals, WISE is also studying the potential for using reclaimed effluent for irrigation and increasing storage at Agate Reservoir. All in all, the project offers a lot of benefits, including saving more than 30,000 Acre/Feet of water in an average water year, nearly enough to fill Emigrant Reservoir.

For the first six months of this year WISE worked with Oregon Solutions to move the project significantly forward. Oregon Solutions is a process that brings broad scale community support to the project in an effort to generate momentum. This included developing a detailed work plan for the next five years, a plan to fund the project, and a proposal for formalizing the WISE organization. The work plan includes a schedule for having the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) complete the Feasibility and Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS) in 2015, the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) in June 2013, construction of a pilot project in 2014 and possible construction of the first phase as early as 2016. Oregon Solutions has also been instrumental in developing a funding plan for the project. Currently, WISE is working with the local State legislators and private industry to fund the FS/EIS.

Another decision that has been made is the BOR will conduct the CBA. This work will include evaluating the value of providing pressure to all the farms within the project, reducing the two week rotation to something closer to an on-demand system, improvements to instream habitat and the hydropower potential of the system. The CBA will let us know if the WISE Project is a solid financial investment.

There is a lot happening over the next year. Stay tuned.

Federal Judge Dismisses Environmental Group’s Challenge to Rogue River Basin Project

Background to the Lawsuit: The April 2012 Biological Opinion
On Monday, April 2, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) released its Biological Opinion pursuant to section 7 of the Endangered Species on the effects of the Bureau of Reclamation’s (“Reclamation”) future operation and maintenance of the Rogue River Basin Project (“Project”), which includes the Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts (“Districts”).

In this opinion, NMFS concluded that the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts Coho salmon or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat for Coho salmon.

For several years, the Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts have been engaged in the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) consultation with Reclamation regarding the Project that led up to the Biological Opinion. The Project supplies irrigation water to more than 35,000 acres of agricultural lands in the Bear Creek basin. These high-value irrigated farm lands were a significant contributor to the estimated $64,000,000.00 in gross farm and ranch sales in Jackson County in 2010 (Source: 2010-2011 Oregon Agriculture & Fisheries Statistics, published by USDA and ODA). In addition, the region’s irrigated agricultural lands are responsible for thousands of family wage jobs.

The consultation process is required by section 7 of the ESA because Coho salmon are listed as a threatened species in the Rogue River basin, including Bear Creek, Little Butte Creek, and their tributaries. These same stream systems serve as the source of water for the Project’s agricultural lands in the Bear Creek basin. The ESA requires that Reclamation consult with NMFS in order to minimize impacts that Project operations could have on listed species.

Over the last several years, the Districts and their patrons committed an incredible amount of time and resources to this process to make sure that, in developing the opinion, the federal agencies have before them the best available science and operational information about how the Project operates. Certain operational changes are necessary as a result of the Biological Opinion, but the Districts are both confident and cautious that these changes will be manageable and feasible.

The ESA Lawsuit
The Districts have also been involved in litigation related to the Biological Opinion, brought against Reclamation in federal district court by the environmental group Oregon Wild. See Oregon Wild v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (D. Or. case no. 09-185). Oregon Wild originally filed suit to force Reclamation to consult with NMFS. That claim became moot when the consultation occurred and NMFS issued the April 2012 Biological Opinion. Oregon Wild had recently added another claim against Reclamation in the same lawsuit, however, asserting that NMFS’s operation of the Project violated section 9 of the ESA.

Section 9 makes it unlawful for any person, including a federal agency, to “take” an endangered species – a broad legal term that generally prohibits harassing, killing, or otherwise harming ESA-listed species. “Take” includes significant habitat modification or degradation if it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavior patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering. There are significant penalties associated with a violation of ESA section 9. The provision is enforced by NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but can also be enforced through citizens’ suits such as that filed by Oregon Wild in this case.

When NMFS issued its Biological Opinion, it included an ESA “Incidental Take Statement” (“ITS”). The ITS set forth the measures that Reclamation may take in order to exempt certain Project activities from “take” liability under ESA section 9. In the lawsuit, Reclamation and the Districts argued that the existence of that Incidental Take Statement, coupled with the agency’s statement of its current and future compliance, rendered Oregon Wild’s remaining “take” claim moot.

In order to represent their unique interests affected by the litigation, earlier this year, the Districts sought leave to intervene on the side of Reclamation. U.S. Federal District Judge Ann Aiken afforded the Districts that leave for purposes of any remedy afforded in the lawsuit. However, the lawsuit did not reach the remedy stage: On August 28, 2012, Judge Aiken agreed with Reclamation and the Districts that the ITS made the remaining “take” claim moot, and dismissed the claim with prejudice. She also denied Oregon Wild’s alternative request to amend or supplement its complaint, and entered a judgment in Reclamation’s favor on the same date.

The Districts are very satisfied with the resolution of the litigation. They can now return their full attention to the task of successfully implementing the modifications made necessary by the Biological Opinion, in coordination with NMFS and Reclamation.

Through collaboration and hard work, the Biological Opinion we have today appears likely to allow the continued delivery of irrigation water that sustains the Rogue Valley’s economic engine, while also providing water for fish. The substance of the Biological Opinion and the result of the related lawsuit ultimately afford the opportunity for most of the citizens of the Rogue Valley. Also, with continued operation of the Project, flood control is preserved along with recreational opportunities that the irrigation reservoirs provide.

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