Ecology Cancels Eastern Washington
by Matthew Weaver
The Washington Department of Ecology has canceled three meetings slated for Eastern Washington
at the end of January, citing low response to its offers of assistance.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has canceled three Eastern Washington meetings slated to discuss water quality, citing low response to its offers of technical and financial assistance.
The department had planned to hold agriculture water quality stakeholder work group information sessions Jan. 26-28 in Walla Walla, Wash., Fairfield, Wash., and Pullman, Wash..
Kelly Susewind, special assistant to the director for Ecology, said the department has been working closely with agriculture partners to schedule and develop workshops to share information about watershed surveys in 2015 and anticipated in 2016.
"The response rate to our 2015 technical and financial assistance offers was much lower than we anticipated." Susewind said. "So rather than identifying new sites with additional watershed surveys, we have decided to focus our energy on high priority sites identified in past years."
In an email to members of the department's agriculture and water quality advisory committee, Susewind said the department decided against conducting a new evaluation and potentially adding new sites.
Toni Meacham, a Connell, Wash., rancher and attorney, said she suggested Ecology offer outreach education meetings with technical service providers instead of canceling the meetings. Agriculture stakeholders held a meeting in October that was well-received and provided information based on peer-reviewed, sound science, she said.
"DOE is not basing their site visits on scientific evidence and they need to do that," Meacham said. "As landowners become aware of what science shows, that good land management and good grazing plans actually improve water quality, they are less likely to accept DOE's plan of fencing. Many have started working with technical service providers instead."
With the shift in focus, Ecology and its partners agree a change in approach to the workshops is "appropriate," Susewind said.
"We'll continue to work with our partners to identify and connect willing landowners with the tools and resources available," he said. "Our goal is to make real progress on the ground protecting clean water and supporting healthy farms."
Education remains critical, Meacham said, as does open communication between the department and the industry.
"Water quality isn't a goal that is exclusive to DOE," she said. "Water quality is important to landowners as well, but we ask for balance and science-based solutions."
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