October 3, 2018
The Forest Service and Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District differ over the irrigation district's easement for access to Eightmile Lake.
The irrigation district claims it paid $100,000 this past spring to have a helicopter carry an excavator into Eightmile Lake so that the irrigation district could make emergency repairs on its old dam. The excavator is a 12,000 pound 305 CAT that moves on tracks. The irrigation district would have preferred to drive the excavator in through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but the Forest Service refused. So the irrigation district paid to have the excavator flown in.
Now it wants to bring the excavator out, but the irrigation district objects to paying another $100,000. Instead, it would like to drive the machine out, again, a distance of over three miles through the wilderness. Tony Jantzer, irrigation district manager, told The Wenatchee World, "it is not cost effective to fly that thing out of there. Especially when we know that we will be applying for a permit this year to replace the dam next year. If we can’t walk it out of there we’re going to leave it."
Chelan County and the Department of Ecology have not issued a final environmental impact statement yet on their programmatic proposals in the Icicle, and have not even started to draft a site-specific EIS on Eightmile Lake. Nonetheless, Jantzer apparently believes that the ultimate decision will support construction of a new Eightmile Lake dam.
A Forest Service spokesman told a Wenatchee reporter that the Forest Service has concerns about the impact that driving the excavator out might have on the environment and what laws it might violate. But rather than reject the idea outright, she said the Forest Service wants the irrigation district to apply for a permit. The Forest Service would then decide what to allow.
Janzter responded that the irrigation district believes it can drive the excavator out of the wilderness area without permission from the Forest Service. But he said he would "work with the Forest Service" to find a solution.
This dispute revolves around the scope of an easement that the Forest Service gave the irrigation district in 1990 when the US Government acquired the irrigation district’s lands at Eightmile Lake. That easement gave the irrigation district the right to access Eightmile Lake "by any means reasonable for the purposes described," including motorized transport or aircraft "for the purposes of maintenance, repair, operation, modification, upgrading and replacement of all facilities" at the lake. The irrigation district could use these rights "in such manner as not unreasonably to interfere with its use by the United States, its authorized users or assigns, or cause substantial injury thereto," but the irrigation district could not "materially increase the size or scope" of its facilities without the Forest Service’s written consent.
Based on this language, this dispute would appear to turn on the question of what is "reasonable", both for the irrigation district, the wilderness, and the public.