Silverton farmers waging water war

Lack of water in the late summer has been an issue since the 1990s

Farmers are fighting over a proposal to dam Drift Creek near Silverton, June 12, 2015 (KOIN)
Farmers are fighting over a proposal to dam Drift Creek near Silverton, June 12, 2015 (KOIN)

SILVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — Farmers in the Silverton area are looking for a long term water supply. One of the proposals is the Drift Creek Dam proposal, which would turn several hundred acres into a reservoir. But that could push several farmers out of the area.

Irrigation farmers want to use the water of Drift Creek to create a dam, while dry land farmers say absolutely not in this spot. Joel Rue has farmed in the area for decades but said under this proposal, that could change.

“They want to flood most of the good farm land in the bottom.” Rue told KOIN 6 News.

The proposed Drift Creek Dam would flood out properties that belong to more than a dozen landowners who grow grass seed, including Bruce Jaquiet.

“I don’t understand. Why don’t they build their own reservoirs on their own property and pump out of streams that are near their farms and sacrifice their own farms?” Jaquiet said.

Dave Beilenberg is the chair for the East Valley Water District. He said Oregon needs a long term water solution, especially with the lack of snow pack.

“We have a lot of water in the winter time, we need to store that water somehow and as we’ve seen over the last number of years we are not able to store in solid form so we are going to have to store in liquid form somehow.” Beilenberg explained.

Dry land farmers like Rue and Jaquiet understand that, but they don’t want to be put out of business to do it.

Beilenberg and his organization still need to do water studies and apply for a permit. It will then need to be approved by the state and federal government.

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