Ferry Conservation District Ecology Policy Comments

November 29, 2021

To: Washington State Department of Ecology

Re: Policy 1025-Coveying Stockwater Away from Streams to Protect Water Quality

 

Dear Department of Ecology,

The Ferry Conservation District wishes to comment on the policy and the effect that it would have on livestock producers, wildlife, and conservation. This policy could potentially have a broad range of impacts. We would like to relate some concerns that we have.

Encouraging landowners and livestock producers to exclude livestock from surface water is a good conservation practice. It helps maintain water quality while improving riparian areas and fish habitat. However, it only becomes a viable practice when the livestock that are excluded are still able to utilize the surface water. Having a policy that does not allow the use of surface water unless there is a water right will not permit many livestock producers in Ferry County to stay in business.

Exempt wells are not a viable option for many (most) pastures. The terrain in Ferry County is too steep in many parcels to allow a well drilling rig access. The construction of the infrastructure needed to service a well could also have negative environmental effects in many cases. The costs associated with a drilled well are also beyond the means of a great number of people.

Due to the terrain and climate, livestock production is the dominant source of agriculture in the Ferry County. Ninety-eight percent of the private agricultural land is rangeland. Keeping the agricultural community viable is important not only to the economy of the county but also for wildlife that depend on the open space and winter range they need to survive.

In the big picture, the use of surface water for livestock has little impact on water quantity but being able to use that water outside of a spring, creek or river can have a positive effect on water quality. We need the ability to continue to use this conservation practice for agricultural viability which supports the landscape and economy of our county.

Sincerely,

 

Ferry Conservation District Board of Supervisors