For the first time in many years there is a contested election for a board seat at the Eagle Point Irrigation District. Current board member Stan Deupree is running for re-election and is being challenged by patron Charlie Boyer. Deupree has been on the Board for a period of 10 years.
Boyer has what he says are serious concerns about the future of the district and believes that the board needs to be proactive in taking a leadership role in protecting the istrict for the benefit of the patrons.
Specifically, he has grave concerns about open ditches running through the city of Eagle Point. He says they are an open invitation to liability if someone should fall into an unprotected ditch and come to harm.
He has concerns too with what he calls a lack of openness both on the part of the board and office staff. Boyer would create a web site and post meeting times, dates and agendas at least a week before each meeting. Following meetings, minutes would be posted for all to see. Budget or budget summaries would also be posted online so that all patrons have good information about the financial picture of the district.
Boyer is also concerned that open main and lateral canals offer opportunity for disaster. He is in favor of exploring the possibilities of piping all irrigation water. This, he says, will lead to a savings of water and prevent the District from having to continually buy new equipment to repair canals
Along the same lines, Boyer says the piping will prevent loading irrigation water with particulates. This is especially important because of new regulations making it illegal to return run-off water to streams unless it meets certain standards. He feels that attempting to meet and working towards those goals will create less conflict between the District and those regulatory agencies. At the same time, he says he is opposed to “crawling into bed” with agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation.
Boyer believes that a good faith attempt to comply with these statutes will allow greater access to grant monies from several of those agencies.
The last major point Boyer believes needs change is to create a long range plan for the district, publish it and review it periodically. He says it is a roadmap to where they want to be in the future.
Stan Deupree was sensitive about the question concerning the board and staff being responsive to the needs of patrons. Deupree related that notices are still being placed in various spots around the district, notifying patrons of meetings and special meetings. He also added that over the years, the district has hired people for special projects, such as the folded brochure showing the district map and facilities, including the monitoring stations on the main canal and other information about the district.
Deupree said that the district went to the trouble of making a web site to communicate with patrons and linked to a regional news service to help with disseminating that information.
He also says he, and the other board members, receive numerous calls from patrons at all hours seeking further information. Deupree notes that not all patrons can come to meetings because of work obligations and the Board is always happy to accommodate them with the information they need.
The District piped a large section of the main canal in a very dangerous location several years ago, and has worked to prevent any problems with the integrity of the canal system. But Deurpee says the problems inherent with piping far outweigh the benefits and the cost to patrons would be staggering. He also says that some of the irrigation water is already piped, especially within the city limits of Eagle Point. But he also cautions that piping is much more costly to maintain and to fix. Piping requires maintenance as well, and is such that ditch riders cannot immediately see when a problem develops.
Most importantly, Deupree says the cost of O & M will increase from the lowest rate in the valley to the highest. That, he believes runs contrary to the mission of the board. He says the goal has been to provide the best water at the lowest possible price and while piping might be an option, it comes with a price tag and, worse yet, invites partnerships with a number of governmental agencies that have elsewhere proved they are not advantageous to patrons. He cited the situations in Klamath Falls and Grants Pass as examples of that relationship not working.
Deupree says the district and the board have worked to improve and maintain their infrastructure while at the same time saving to allow the district to become self-insured. He noted that no insurance company will insure the canal itself, so the board has set aside money for circumstances, such as repairs following the recent break. He said that liability coverage is through Special Districts of Oregon, providing coverage should the district have a claim against any property or accident.
It appears that both candidates have a sincere desire to serve patrons and want to work to make the district better. The difference seems to be in the methods of water delivery and some phases of management.
Ballots are due at the irrigation office by 8 p.m. Nov. 8. The office os located at 2429 Brophy Road. Eagle Point or to mail a ballot the address is P.O. Box 157, Eagle Point.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the Independent