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MADRAS, OR -- Central Oregon ranchers are watching what happens Tuesday afternoon in a Eugene courtroom. WaterWatch of Oregon is suing three local irrigation districts over management of the Deschutes River Basin. A federal judge will hear arguments at 2 p.m. 

 

The Portland-based environmental group says districts' storing of water in nearby reservoirs during the winter and releasing of it in the summer irrigation season creates an inconsistent habitat for the threatened Spotted Frog. They're asking for an immediate injunction limiting the water districts can use. 

 

Madras veterinarian Dr. Trish Becksen plans to attend the Eugene hearing. She tells KBND News, "There's got to be a balance. That's what I don't see happening. That's what should be looked at, as far as the economic damage and the people's lives that are going to be ruined. These groups are not accounting for the livestock or horses, or whatever, that could potentially starve if this thing goes." She adds, "The fertilizer companies are already ordering less fertilizer. It's really going to have a domino effect."

 

Read more about ranchers' concerns.

 

Madras Mayor Royce Embanks tells KBND News, "I'm all in favor of protecting our species, and don't want to make anything extinct. But, I also have five to 6,000 engaged directly with agriculture here, and it's their farms, their homes. These are family farms, not large corporates. And, these are people that grew up here, came back here and are living on the farm doing farming."

 

He's asking for a measured approach, "We're hoping, what they'll do is say, 'give us a year or five years to completely evaluate this and see where it is going, realistically.' If we're not endangering the Spotted Frog by changing water levels with irrigation, then fine. If we are, what can we do to mitigate that? And, there are things that can be done."

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