A recent settlement with Warren Orchards will help make major environmental improvements to the Touchet River near Dayton, which provides critical habitat for threatened steelhead, according to the state Department of Ecology.
The Department of Ecology fined Warren Orchards for illegally watering a 100-acre apple and pear orchard in Columbia County after being ordered to stop irrigating during the state’s historic drought in 2015.
As part of the settlement, the Warrens agreed to place 20 acres of land along the Touchet River located downstream from the orchard into a conservation easement. The easement will prohibit future development but may allow continued agricultural uses, according to the state.
The land will be used for a habitat restoration and enhancement project by the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Department of Ecology said.
Early designs for the project include the addition of boulders, large wood stumps, and logs to help influence the river’s flow and create more beneficial fish habitat. Plans also call for the addition of streamside plants, such as native trees and grasses, to help reduce flood risks downstream and improve water temperatures by providing shade.
The Warrens appealed the original $73,530 fine to the Pollution Control Hearings Board before entering settlement discussions with the state.
The agreement allows the land trust to compensate the Warrens for the conservation easement but requires a $20,000 reduction in payment from the appraised value of the land.
As long as the terms of the settlement are met, the Warrens will pay $30,000 and the state will excuse the remainder of the fine after two years.
The Pollution Control Hearings Board dismissed the appeal and approved the settlement Dec. 16.
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