MADRAS, OR -- Farmers in the Madras area are preparing to get started with spring planting, now that a federal judge has denied a request by environmental groups to limit water for local irrigation districts. WaterWatch of Oregon and the Center for Biological Diversity argue the changing water levels in the Deschutes River, caused by irrigation season, harm the threatened spotted frog.
Madras Farmer Martin Richards says many throughout the region were very nervous. "The judge giving us a ruling, definitely gives us a chance to possibly salvage some spring crops. But we've held off because it cost money for seed and fertilizer and chemicals. If we would've spent that money and then she [the judge] ruled against us, we would've lost all that." He tells KBND News, "North Unit Irrigation relies almost completely on stored water out of Wickiup Reservoir. If we would have lost the possibility to store water, North Unit Irrigation would have had a fraction of what we normally would have, that would have spelled disaster to a lot of growers."
But, Richards warns local irrigation districts are not out of the woods yet. "The judge's ruling was just based on the preliminary injunction; we still have the lawsuit with WaterWatch and CBD to deal with. We're just very hopeful that the judge's comments were very positive for us and that CBD and WaterWatch will come back to the table and work with us in a collaborative way so that we can solve these problems. We don't feel the lawsuit was the best way to deal with it." Richards, who is also the chair of the North Unit Irrigation District board, has been part of the group trying to come up with a habitat plan to put more water in the Deschutes to help the spotted frog.