June 20, 2011
KENNEWICK, Wash. The state Supreme Court is considering an appeal in a case involving a cattle feedlot near Elopia that could limit the amount of water used by farmers and ranchers.
Neighbors of the Easterday Ranches feedlot in Franklin County and environmental groups say pumping water for 30,000 head of cattle will deplete the groundwater supply. Easterday disputes that and cites a state law that says a permit is not needed if groundwater is tapped for animals.
The Tri-City Herald reports a Franklin County superior court upheld the exemption. The state Supreme Court heard arguments last week on the appeal and will issue its ruling later.
AP, information supplied by the Tri-City Herald
Kennewick is one of the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington State. Unlike the western side of the mountains, this part of the state is semi-desert, and agriculture is dependent on irrigation. The original water law exempting animal needs from groundwater pumping limitations was passed in 1945. Washington State legislators probably didn’t have 30,000 head feedlots in mind.
A while back I wrote about a case in Idaho that pitted traditional crop producers against fish farm operators, with scarce groundwater as the point of contention.
The takeaway is that as water becomes scarcer different forms of agriculture are forced to compete for the same scarce resource. We’ll be watching for the State Supreme Court’s ruling in this case.