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The DEQ Ditch riders: Clearing ditches by chemical means


DEQ to require permit for use of herbicide in irrigation ditches


H&N Staff Reporter

September 13, 2012

H&N photo by Samantha Tipler   Ditch riders - Klamath Irrigation District ditch rider Skip Mahler replaces a board to adjust the flow at a spillway on the B Canal, just before it splits into the E and F canals, Wednesday morning. The spillway feeds into the Lost River as it flows by Highway 140.

Each spring, ditch riders with the Klamath Irrigation District apply herbicides in the canals to make sure the waterways are clear for the irrigation season ahead.


Aquatic weeds are fast-growing, said Mark Stuntebeck, manager of the district.

“They can take up the volume area of the canal and when they do that you can not pass as much water through the canal,” he said. “When the aquatic weeds get bad you can lose 50 percent or more of your capacity —your ability to run water down the canal.”


To do its spraying, the district must get a permit.


In the past that permit has been through the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant and Discharge Elimination System, better known as an NPDES permit. Klamath Irrigation District is one of about 10 districts in the state with an NPDES permit.


Soon the district will instead have to get a permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  

The DEQ ( is finalizing its processes and requirements for the “general permit use in irrigation systems,” also called a 2000-J permit. It has extended the public comment period on the proposed permit through Sept. 28.


For the new 2000-J permit, the DEQ is combining stipulations from the NPDES permit with other requirements that came out of a 2009 federal court ruling, said Beth Moore, general permit writer with the DEQ office in Portland.


Along with the 2000-J permit, the DEQ also has a separate permit for spraying alongside a canal, the 2300-A permit. That permit has acted as an interim permit for some districts that spray pesticides until the 2000-J is available, Moore said.


In the future, which permit irrigation districts will need will depend on what type of herbicides they use, Moore said.


The 2000-J permit has two possible fees. A new permit would cost $903 and an annual fee would cost $457. Districts transferring their permit, like the Klamath Irrigation District, would only pay the annual fee, even in the first year, Moore said.


After it receives and reviews public comments, the DEQ will either issue the permit as it is written, or amend it, according to information on the department’s website. DEQ expects to issue the permits later this year.


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