DEQ tries to blame EPID for landslide

Eagle Point Irrigation District Board of Directors took care of some routine business during their meeting of Jan. 5.  The meeting was held nearly a week early because one member has to be out of town for business on the regular date.  Even at that, one member had to communicate through speaker phone due to illness.

Re-elected board member Stan Deupree took the oath of office for the ensuing three year term. Gary Bedell was reelected president and Deupree vice president.  Manager David Ford was selected as manager and secretary for the organization and long-standing attorney Bill Mansfield will again fill that seat.

The board maintained bonds for those held with fiduciary responsibility and set meetings to the second Tuesday of each month beginning at 2:30 p. m.

Dave Ford reported that the lake level in Willow Lake is currently at 7352 acre-feet, virtually unchanged since the last report due to the lack of rain.  Creek levels are currently 79 cfs, also unchanged from the last report.  Ford reported that Southern Oregon is currently five inches short of the normal rainfall total.  As a result, the hydro plant is not running at capacity, but it is running smoothly.  He also reported that the canal repairs are doing  well.

EPID recently took the opportunity to improve their canal monitoring stations with improved software and improved communication with the office, the home of the manager and will shortly extend that to the home of the ditch rider. 

Jeff Griffin from the insurance underwriter reviewed the district’s coverage and pronounced them “spot on”.  Griffin said that EPIDs experience rating was low due to the safe manner in which employees conducted business.  The question came up concerning insurance coverage for the main canal, and Griffin told the board that he would look into it, but was certain that it would be an astronomical amount and was fairly certain that the district could not afford the premiums.

The board invited Bill Meyer of the local DEQ office to the meeting to discuss events and a letter DEQ sent to the district concerning possible damage to the river system during the landslide of Oct. 2.  That letter attempted to fix liability to the district for the canal failure and attempted to set a course of corrective action.  Meyer said the failure of the canal was not under control of the district (an act of God) but that the failure caused a violation of quality standards.

Attorney Mansfield called the letter “irresponsible” and demanded that they retract it.  Mansfield explained that the cause of the canal failure was due in no way to negligence of the District, was due to events that took place off the canal and by nature, an “act of God” is something that can neither be foreseen or prevented. 

It was pointed out that the call to emergency services came in at 3:15 a.m. that morning from a resident of the area.  However, emergency services failed to call anyone within the district until some two hours later.  With the canal running at near capacity, 100 cfs flowing unrestricted for two hours can move more earth than hydraulic miners of more than a century ago. 

A lively debate ensued and again Mansfield stated “I think it was an irresponsible letter.”  The DEQ is demanding that the district identify potential hazards and work to take corrective action in those areas.  It was pointed out that the entire hillside is riddled with springs because of the very nature of the rock and soils and the structure of the hill changes from year to year.  Most of those areas are not on the easement belonging to the district. 

Another issue has arisen from the incident concerning the rock and debris that was deposited on Cobleigh Road.  Jackson County has sent the district a bill for damages, some $43,000, for clearing and repairing the road.  The district has referred the matter to their insurance carrier and denied that any wrongdoing in the matter.  It was the opinion of the insurance carrier that they would prevail in the matter.

Manager David Ford reported that the search for the part-time help is continuing.  He has run ads in the Independent and will run another then end the search for applicants by the end of January.

The next Board meeting of EPID will be on the regular date and time in February.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the Independent


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