Hello Neighbors, and happy spring!
It is a beautiful time in our community to celebrate new growth, and get geared up for warm weather. Thank you for being a part of our community and our cause. As always, we are humbled by your support and it is one of the primary reasons we are able to maintain this platform for the sustainable use of resources on our aquifer. We have been doing a lot of work in the background from several angles and with the help and support of other local entities. We are looking forward to catching you all up on those advancements quite soon. For now we have some updates and accompanying information to get you re-acquainted with our local issues. On to the updates:
18505 Jaquith Rd. Application
There has been little update until recently regarding the application for a new well at 18505 Jaquith Rd to irrigate 20 acres of potential hemp growth. Our water committee has been monitoring the weekly Oregon Water Resources Division (OWRD) public updates, and in January an extensive re-review of the initial well application was completed by the Hydro Engineers from OWRD. See https://apps.wrd.state.or.us/apps/misc/vault/vault.aspx?Type=WRFolder&folder_image_id=92854.
In short, the OWRD Groundwater re-review had many problems with the application for the new well because, “the groundwater for the proposed use is either over appropriated, will not likely be available in the amounts requested without injury to prior water rights, or will not likely be available within the capacity of the groundwater resource ”.
Based on this re-review, OWRD will have to revisit their decision to approve the application. If the OWRD nonetheless decides to grant the proposed final order for the well, there are many recommended conditions, including monitoring of the new well and neighboring wells, constraints on the type of well and how it is constructed.
For now, we are waiting to see what the final order will be from the OWRD and what the applicant intends to do. Once we know, we will post the update for our neighbors and others interested on this website.
Other Water Updates on or Near Chehalem Mountain
Since the late 1990’s the aquifer on Chehalem Mountain has been defined as a limited groundwater area (Chehalem Mountain Ground Water Limited Area) which places extra constraints regarding issuing new water rights, wells and other water use. [link to OAR 690, section 1 expanded below]. This is because the Chehalem Mountain aquifer is at risk of permanent damage from overuse. This has occurred with the Cooper and Bull Mountain aquifers which are now classified as Critical. These definitions are important since there are rules regarding the permitting of some new wells in limited aquifers to protect the older well users and to help preserve the aquifer from additional damage. Nevertheless, new well permits continue to be issued. The rules require that new wells not cause damage to surrounding existing wells and industrial wells need to be reviewed every five years to determine if the aquifer can continue to meet the demands of the new and old wells. The current drought conditions in the NW plus the marked increase in cannabis farming in the region, combine to cause more threats to water availability. Domestic wells are not permitted to irrigate industrial crops with a few exemptions, but marijuana does not qualify for any exemptions from this rule [link to application, section 5.3 expanded below]. There are several licensed cannabis farms on Chehalem Mountain but proof of a viable water source apparently is not required to obtain that license. (Although it is stated so on the application for the license.)
Hence there are several Cannabis farmers who may be using domestic wells inappropriately. This does not account for the hemp farms (which are regulated by the Department of Agriculture) or illegal Cannabis growers in the area. This may be of concern to neighbors on Chehalem Mountain as many have noted the need to deepen wells over recent years. We are monitoring the farms and the domestic and industrial wells via public records.
As stated in the groundwater review above, the streams in this area are supported by groundwater discharges from the basalt aquifers which support local stream flow. Therefore, there likely is connection between some of the streams and the aquifers in this region. Our water group has been monitoring a stream near a local branch of McFee Creek, and will continue to monitor it monthly.
(1) Groundwater in the basalt aquifers in the Chehalem Mountain, Eola Hills and South Salem Hills Groundwater Limited Areas is classified for exempt uses, irrigation and rural residential fire protection systems only. Permits may be issued, for a period not to exceed five years, for fire protection and for drip or equally efficient irrigation provided the Director finds the proposed use and amount do not pose a threat to the groundwater resource or existing permit holders. The amount of water used for irrigation shall be further limited to one acre-foot per acre per year. Permits may be extended for additional five-year periods if the Director finds that the groundwater resource can probably support the extended use. Applications may be rejected or permit or certificate extensions may be denied if the aquifer displays any of the adverse impacts defined in OAR 690, division 008.
Section 5.3 – Legal Source of Water: All water to be used to produce marijuana under this Producer license will be obtained from a legal source allowable for commercial use by the licensee and for the property where the premises is located. I will retain a copy of at least one of the following demonstrating a legal source of water for commercial agriculture: A.) a water right permit or certificate; B.) a water use authorization form from the Oregon Water Resources Department; C.) documentation such as a billing statement or contract from a public or private water supplier that includes the name and contact information of that supplier; or D.) other proof from the Oregon Water Resources Department that the water to be used is from a lawful source for commercial use that does not require a water right.
Thank you for reading!
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