Compliance in the Methow Valley

By the fall of 1999,32 of the 33 ditches identified as being in violation had achieved compliance with state fish screening and passage laws. Of these, 14 were issued Special Use Permits from the Forest Service and received incidental take statements from NOAA Fisheries enabling them to continue operation. These compliance measures did not come without considerable sacrifice or cost to the local area. For example, plans to build a destination vacation resort in the valley were abandoned. In addition, a well-established Bed and Breakfast Inn was forced into bankruptcy, while many other businesses incurred financial hardship.

In its first year, the Okanogan County Action Plan had achieved a commitment that ultimately lead to the replacement of the WSDOT culvert at Beaver Creek, and was instrumental in 32 of the 33 ditches alleged to be in violation of state screening and passage laws achieving compliance without further enforcement activity, thus substantially reducing or eliminating their take liability under the ESA. Of the 33 non-compliant ditches identified within the basin, the MVID was the only entity that chose to continue to operate in open violation of state and federal law during the 1999 irrigation season. Hundreds of salmonids were stranded when the district ceased operation in the fall of 1999 and drained their 34-mile long irrigation ditch. The subsequent investigation led to the issuance of two Notices of Violation Assessment (NOVA), as well as a court injunction and consent decree issued by the Federal District Court in April of 2000.

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