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Oregon has not made it easier to install ponds

Given the exceptional drought conditions, I’m wondering if Oregon has made it any easier for people in rural situations to put in ponds as a water source for firefighting, as we don’t have access to hydrants. And is it different if you want to use it for irrigation? How are you allowed to fill it? Are permits difficult to obtain? Any information would be appreciated.

— S.T., Talent

No, there are no new exemptions or rules for installing ponds as a way to fight fires.

A water right is required to store water for any beneficial use, whether that be irrigation, recreation or future fire protection, for example.

In order to create a pond, you need to obtain a water right from the Oregon Water Resources Department. In addition, a removal/fill permit may be required for any earth-moving work on waterways and wetlands.

To obtain the water right, you would need to fill out the standard reservoir application, after which the department reviews it to check whether all the required information is there, whether the proposal is prohibited by statute, and whether all fees have been paid.

The application then goes through an initial review to determine if water is available during the time requested, and to check for other red flags. The department then opens the proposal to public comment, which lasts 30 days.

The department then reviews any comments received. Within 60 days of the initial review, the department issues a proposed final order explaining its reasons to deny or approve an application.

After the proposed final order has been received, members of the public have 45 days to file a protest. Protests are filed roughly 10% of the time. If a protest is received, the department will work to settle it but will schedule a contested case hearing if necessary.

If no protest is filed, the department can issue a final ruling within 60 days of the end of the protest period. If the final order is accepted, a permit will be granted. The process can take up to 202 days.

A removal/fill permit is needed if the project requires at least 50 cumulative cubic yards be filled and/or removed.

For more information on permits from the Oregon Water Resources Department: oregon.gov/OWRD/programs/WaterRights/Permits/Pages/Obtain.aspx

For more information on removal/fill permits from Oregon Department of State Lands: oregon.gov/dsl/WW/Pages/Permits.aspx

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.