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Jackson County offers help for dry wells

Financial help is available for Jackson County residents who have well problems due to drought. File photo
Thousands of dollars available for those who can prove well troubles connect to 2021 drought

Jackson County Environmental Public Health has announced a new program for county residents who experienced hardship with their wells during the drought declared by Gov. Kate Brown from April 13 to Dec. 31 of 2021.

As much as $7,500 from the Domestic and Public Well Assistance Program is available to qualified residents, but funds are limited and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Several conditions must be met to be eligible for assistance. The well in question must be on a residential property occupied during the drought by the legal owner of the well, the legal owner's family members, or the legal owner’s tenants.

Public wells in residential service also qualify, but there is a limit of 15,000 gallons of water volume per day. This is to mark a distinction between residential wells and wells used for irrigation.

Applicants who have already filed a dry well or slow recharge complaint through the Jackson County Watermasters office or the Oregon Water Resources Department will have a jump-start as their applications will go through faster.

Chad Peterson, Environmental Public Health program manager, says that so far most of the applicants have no previous complaint. He urges those who think they could qualify to “apply now, before the money runs out.”

The money was approved through Senate Bill 5561 — a bill allocating money from the state general fund to state agencies for expenses, including emergencies and natural disasters, such as the drought.

The state Department of Agriculture allocated $40 million for that department’s disaster relief fund. From this sum, money filtered into irrigation assistance, and for domestic drinking water for counties and cities throughout Oregon.

For Jackson County, $954,800 was appropriated for domestic well assistance. The money was translated into the Domestic and Public Well Assistance program, and once the money is gone — it's gone.

“If you’ve had any issues with your drinking water well, if you can attribute it to the drought, you should apply,” Peterson said.

Those with a bone dry well can apply for the highest award, $7,500, to dig a new one. If the well only needs to be deepened, applicants could get as much as $5,000.

A new holding tank could be awarded $1,500, treatments for disinfection or hardness removal, including well casing clean out and reconditioning, may receive up to $2,000. Those who had to haul their own water due to a dry well could get as much as $500.

The application will ask for invoices or receipts if the well has already been worked on and estimates for wells that have work yet to be done. In both cases, the money is intended to reimburse for completed work. Applicants should expect to pay for work yet to be done out of pocket and then be reimbursed through the program.

Applications can be found at the Jackson County Watermaster website: jacksoncountyor.org/departments/watermaster/services. Completed applications can be emailed to 2021wellassist@jacksoncounty.org or sent by snail mail to the Jackson County Watermaster’s Office, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Room 309, Medford, OR 97501.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.