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Washington farmer to pay $80,000 to settle with Ecology

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A Washington berry farmer will also install water meters to settle allegations of illegally irrigating his land.

A northwest Washington farmer has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle allegations he illegally watered raspberries and failed to supply accurate irrigation records for blueberries, the Department of Ecology says.

Gurjant “George” Sandhu also must install meters that will automatically transmit to Ecology his water use and allow officials to inspect his property for the next three years, according to Ecology.

The settlement reduces the $102,000 fine that Ecology levied against the Whatcom County farmer in December. The settlement will save Ecology time and money and achieve more than a fine alone, Ecology watermaster Kasey Cykler said.

“Farmers in Whatcom County work hard to obtain legal water rights. It’s our responsibility to keep a level playing field,” Cykler said in a written statement.

Efforts to contact Sandhu or his attorney for comment were unsuccessful.

Ecology said Sandhu, doing business as Crystal View Raspberry Farm, irrigated most of a 220-acre raspberry farm near Bellingham for at least two years, though he had water rights to irrigate only 35 acres.

Ecology also said Sandhu failed to submit accurate water-use data for a 120-acre blueberry farm near Ferndale, despite being required to by an earlier settlement.

Sandhu appealed the fine to the Pollution Control Hearings Board, which has accepted the new settlement with Ecology.

If Sandhu violates the terms of the settlement in the next three years, he will be required to pay the original fine and could face additional penalties, according to Ecology.

Sandhu is working to secure water rights for his raspberry farm, according to Ecology.

The meters must be installed prior to the 2018 irrigation season, according to the settlement.

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