2012 Winter Newsletter

2013 Budget Approved with no Fee Increase

              On October 11, 2012 the budget committee met to develop a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The committee was made up of the District’s three board members: Stephen Benston, Bryan Baumgartner, and Richard Dunn, and three District patrons: Barry Hoffman, Gerald May and, Orville Eary.

              We would like to thank the District Patrons for serving on the Budget Committee.

Rogue River Valley Irrigation District’s Board of Directors have written a letter, included with this newsletter, outlining the approved 2013 budget. We would like to thank our budget committee for their service.

Letter from the Board

Dear Fellow Water Users:

As we come to the end of the 2012 irrigation season, The District has met with the Budget Committee to evaluate our operating budget for the coming year. During this process, the manager, board and budget committee have spent time reflecting on issues that have made an impact on our budget and operation.

In this past year, the basin irrigation districts have finally concluded the biological opinion process with the Federal agencies. The National Marine Fisheries has issued a “non jeopardy” with reasonable and prudent alternative opinion (meaning that our operation does not adversely affect a threatened species), but this came at a huge cost to Rogue River, Talent and Medford Irrigation Districts who share the delivery system, totaling $1.8 million.   First, we do lose some water in-stream to the fish based on a scientifically proven flow regime. We have also lost the ability to store water as we have done historically, meaning we will now be putting some water into the streams during the winter months. This decision was based on science and weather patterns.

Our legal and scientific teams worked together with the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries to develop a document which is essentially our operating manual for the future. This document establishes an environmental baseline based upon the best available science. In other words, any legal challenges to our operations as set forth in this document will have to prove that the science it is based on is flawed. Those challenges could be costly to any entity bringing them. The irrigation managers in the basin will operate the irrigation delivery system according to the document.

For the first few years, the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District funded our portion of this long and tedious process to reach the biological opinion, mostly from our emergency reserves. During the process, we reached a point where we could not take our reserves any lower without violating Bureau of Reclamation contracts. At that time, we had to raise our rates to help pay for this process. We know this was a burden to all patrons, but appreciate that you saw the need to see this battle through.

This basin’s irrigation supply is still at risk. Water issues in the Klamath Basin have been more or less dormant, but with Oregon Water Resources Department’s adjudication process to prove up water rights is starting on its final push, things could get nasty. The amount of water brought into the Rogue Basin from the other side of the mountain could be drastically reduced. We will be monitoring this process.

Now, back to our budget process --- In short, we won’t be raising rates for 2013. While it would be very nice to roll back our assessment rates at this time, your Board and Budget Committee have decided it is not fiscally responsible to do so. Our equipment to operate and maintain our system is being pushed to mechanical limits and equipment is being held together with band aids and baling wire. Our emergency fund needs to be built back up to at least pre-biological opinion levels.  

The District continues to look for other revenue sources, partnerships or grant monies to help reduce the burden on all of us (the water users), but these things do not happen overnight. The District will continue to talk with the cities within our boundaries about the possibility of the District supplying irrigation water (non-potable) for lawns and parks. This is done in other areas with great success! The District has also worked with Jackson County and other groups on future land use and annexations to make sure we are not overlooked and our systems don’t become compromised in order to insure that water is still delivered to all of our patrons.

There are additional issues facing the District, in short, we are going to continue to maintain our system and keep the water going to your irrigated land. The service that we provide is of the utmost importance to all of us and the District will continue to be as efficient and cost effective as possible while dealing with all of these challenges.

If any of you have any questions, concerns, or ideas that you feel will benefit the District, please feel free at any time to contact the District office or any of your board members.

The District’s 2013 Current Fees Schedule is as follows:

Irrigation Incurred Charges:
Per Acre Rate: $58.00
Account Charged per tax lot: $150.00
Manufacturing Water Right charge by the Acre-foot : $48.30

Administrative Fees:
Lien Search per tax lot: $55.00
Title Transfer per tax lot: $80.00
Lien fee per tax lot: $210.00
Bad Check Fee (per occurrence): $30.00
Copy chargers per page: $0.25
Research Fee: $45.00

Inspection Fee

Non Refundable: $50.00
Subdivision Review: $300.00
Land Partition: $150.00
Theft of Services (plus the cost of repairs if any): $100.00
Tampering or Damage to District Property (plus the cost of repairs if any): $100.00

Crossing Agreement/License

Lateral (Utility): $300.00
Farm Crossing: $250.00
Canal (Utility): $500.00
Fiber Optic: $1,000.00

Water Right Transfer Fees:
Initial Application: $550.00
 Capital Improvement 

Up to 5 Acres: $250.00
Each Addition Acre: $25.00
Contraction Fees will be determined at time of application for rights.
Quit Claim: $350.00

Equipment Rental Rates per hour:
*All rental rates include the wage of one operator.*
*Payroll taxes are calculated at 50% of Gross Wage earned*

Bob Cat: $100.00
Cat Excavator: $110.00
Auger Truck: $80.00
Transporter: $80.00
Dump Truck: $80.00
District Pickups: $80.00
John Deere Tractor: $80.00
District Personnel: Hourly Wage plus benefits & taxes

Billing Reminder

              RRVID’s annual irrigation billing statements are scheduled to be mailed out the second week of January. To avoid interest charges you need to have your irrigation bill(s) paid by the end of February.

              Interest accures on every account with a balance owing on March 1st. A late fee of $25.00 will be added on April 1st to all accounts not been paid in full or have not set up payment arrangements with RRVID.

Reminder every year monthly payment agreements must be requested and filled out. Our District is not set up to accept any type of debit or credit cards. We accept cash, checks, and money orders.

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 future operation and maintenance of the Rogue River Basin Project which includes the Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts.

In the Opinion , NMFS concluded that the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 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 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 consultaion 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 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 ITS, 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 the 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 satified 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 Opion, 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 substains 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 to continue to reside here. Also, with continued operation of the Project, flood control is preserved along with recreational opportunites that the irrigation reservoirs provide.

Rogue River Valley Irrigation District’s No Spray Agreement

If you are a landowner and would like to request that no chemicals are used to control plant growth on the District’s right of way on your property please call our office. Please contact our office annually to ensure that we have you on our No Spray List. To guarantee that we have the proper time to notify our ditch riders call the office before February 1st.

Maintaining Water Rights

All water rights within the District must be maintained by putting the water to beneficial use at least once in every-five year period. Oregon Revised Statue 540.610 mandates this requirement. If the water right is not used for a beneficial use, the landowner and the District could lose the water right. Maintenance of the water right is the patron’s responsibility. The water right is an asset to your land. If you choose not to use the water right, please contact the District so the water right can be transferred to another property to be used beneficially. It is very important to the landowners and the District that all landowners maintain their water rights because the land base of water rights are the financial foundation of the District. For the District to remain financially secure it is important that the water rights remain valid.

Election Information

              Richard Dunn’s term of office as Director expired on December 31, 2012. Nominating Petitions for Director Dunn’s expiring term were available in the District office from September 8, 2012 until October 9, 2012. A legal notice was published in the Mail Tribune on September 8, 2012 to announce that the petitions were available. The deadline for filing the Nomination Petitions was 4:15pm on October 9, 2012. The only Nomination Petition that was filed by the deadline was from Richard Dunn. Since only one Nomination Petition was received, Richard Dunn will serve on the board for another three years.

Private Irrigation Lines

The District would like to remind all those water users that have a private line of their responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of their lines. Maintenance of these lines helps to keep water running smoothly during the water season. Landowners of these lines can contact the District office to hire our maintenance crew to come and clean their lines.

Canal/Road Maintenance and Right of Ways

Maintenance Season is here at Rogue River Valley Irrigation District. RRVID will be starting this year’s maintenance in an aggressive manner. Please remove all debris, obstacles, pipelines, bridges, walk boards, etc., in anticipation of our equipment coming your way.

Those landowners who own property along the main canal are well aware of the maintenance that has to take place on a regular basis. Each fall after the water has been shut off, the silt and vegetation needs to be removed from the canal. RRVID typically puts this material back across the canal road or uses it to level the road from damages caused by human and animal traffic during the spring. RRVID’s easements and right-of-ways are for District access, operation and maintenance only. They are not public right-of-ways. Entrance onto their easements and right-of-ways may constitute trespassing on the underlying landowner’s property.

RRVID will be mowing the canal banks again this fall and spring. RRVID will be using our flail mowers that mount to our tractor to mow blackberries and brush along our right-of-ways.

RRVID would like to request our water users to please limit the use of the canal ditch roads during the off-season. The use of these roads in the off season can cause undue damage to the ditch roads, and more work for our maintenance crew that has to fix them. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

IMPORTANT Reclamation Reform Act Information

Because Federal funds of the Bureau of Reclamation were used to finance the reconstruction of the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District in the late 50’s and 60’s, the Reclamation Reform Act (RRA) applies to the users of water within the RRVID.

If you own, operate, and/or lease 40 acres or more (this side of the Mississippi River) you must comply with the requirements of RRA.If you own, operate, or lease 40 acres or more and have not filed an RRA form, please contact our office IMMEDIATELY at 3139 Merriman Road, Medford OR 97501 or call 541-773-6127.

The Bureau of Reclamation requires that the RRA forms be on file in the District office before water can be delivered to the said property to avoid fines.

Bear Creek Watershed TMDL Implementation Program

               The Bear Creek Watershed Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) Implementation Program was created to improve the water quality in the Bear Creek Watershed. Rogue River Valley Irrigation District’s annual report was submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality in September 2012.

                 Several organizations and agencies participate in the Bear Creek TMDL Implementation Program. Since 1997 stakeholders have spent more than $39.5 million on water quality improvement projects within the Bear Creek Watershed. As a result of these projects the water quality has improved significantly since 1996.

Currently Bear Creek and its tributaries do not yet meet the total allowable phosphorus concentrations, substantial progress has been made and continues to be made as Rogue River Valley Irrigation District along with the other agencies and organizations continue to work with this program.

2012 End Of Season Water Supplies

           The 2012 Irrigation season ended when water deliveries were shut off to the District’s canals on October 15th. As of October 31st the District’s carryover for the 2013 season is:

Agate Reservoir 1086 acre feet or 23% of capacity

Emigrant Lake 9248 acre feet or 24% of capacity

Fish Lake        3502 acre feet or 45% of capacity

Four Mile Lake   5329 acre feet or 34% of capacity

Howard Prairie 40928 acre feet or 68% of capacity

Hyatt Lake    10892 acre feet or 67% of capacity

These are good amounts to carry over to next year. If we experience an average winter, we will be in good shape for the 2013 season.