With irrigation season about to begin (April 11), there is some concern for EPID patrons near the end of Wentworth Road. An incident last year between the dog belonging to one patron, and the leg, owned by another patron, has led to a legal battle between the two. The result is that the dog owner has refused access to the canal gate that feeds irrigation water to the other and to several patrons beyond him.
The issue was brought to the attention of the EPID Board where attorney for the District, Bill Mansfield, advised the Board to refrain from becoming involved because of a prior ruling. That ruling, referred to as the Luce amendment, dictates that the District delivers water to the original point of diversion before a subdivision (subdivided property) was formed.
The issue arose when one patron was bitten, rather severely, and sought relief from the owner of the dog. He claims that the dog owner originally agreed to put the dog down, then recanted because the dog is a stock guardian dog. The problem lies in that the patron bitten, must access the irrigation gate by crossing the dog owner’s property. The dog owner is forbidding the access without his neighbors signing a waiver that he will be held harmless if another incident occurs. Without access, downstream patrons cannot get their water and the dog owner refuses to open the gate for the others.
The patron injured asked that the District fence the ditch area so that others can safely access the gate. The District has no intention or obligation to do so.
Board president Gary Bedell said he could not believe this type of behavior by the patrons, “Shame on us.” He further stated that had this happened to himself his father always told him to “shoot the dog.”
New Board member J. B. Dimick, who took the oath of office at the beginning of the meeting, suggested that the dog owner simply open the gate for his neighbors. The dog owner refused unless the other patrons “pay him.”
The incident and discussion led President Bedell to instruct District manager David Ford, to search for an alternative to the present system so that both patrons and staff can feel safe in accessing the water in that area.
The discussion then centered on the personal safety of District staff. They have been authorized to carry personal protective equipment to defend themselves from dogs, cougars, snakes or any other threat to their health. This is important to maintain the health of employees and to prevent increases in insurance rates.
Auditor Rick Brewster gave a brief report on the financial picture for the District for the 2011 year and gave it his seal of approval. Brewster did make a recommendation that the district increase O & M rates periodically rather than having to make a large increase at some point in the future. President Bedell said the Board had talked about periodic increases, but decided at this time, that people are hurting and have little extra to apply to irrigation. At present Brewster reported that a good portion of costs are being paid by the hydro project. He said that other districts are paying as much as $105/acre for their water.
The water report shows that the canal is full and the canals will be filling beginning on April 11. Big Butte creek is running at 130 cfs and Willow Lake is full, painting a pretty good picture for the irrigation season. It is still raining and Manager David Ford reported that only one patron has asked for water at this time.
Attorney Mansfield instructed staff to prepare a resolution to bring the District’s bylaws into alignment with state laws concerning the replacement of Board members when a vacancy occurs. Current state law mandates that replacements may be chosen by the board to fill the vacancy only until the next annual meeting of the Board, which will be in January of 2013.
One patron demanded that their current ditch rider be excluded from the patron’s property, but Mansfield said that was not a negotiable item. The Board rejected the request.
Manager Ford reported that planning of the project on widening Hwy 62 was still in progress and would likely have little effect on the Districts infrastructure. Future developments will be reported to the Board.
The next meeting of EPID will be held on May 8, and please make not of the new time of 4 p. m.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the independent