Skagit Valley farmers, including beet seed farmers, have started receiving irrigation water made available in a deal with the city of Anacortes.
Irrigation districts 15 and 22 sought help last month when Skagit River levels dropped to record low levels, combined with warm temperatures and lack of rainfall. About 5,000 acres of crops were placed in jeopardy after the districts, as holder of junior water rights, were prevented from drawing water from the river.
The city, with senior water rights, agreed to forgo 4.8-million gallons of water each day and transfer rights to the two irrigation districts. The state Department of Ecology approved the change.
Under the agreement, the districts may only withdraw the water during the three hours before and after high tide to keep for further lowering the river’s flow.
The irrigation districts are part of a 90,000-acre Skagit Valley that provides 95 percent of table beets and 75 percent of spinach and cabbage. Worldwide, the valley produces 8 percent of the spinach seed supply and 25 percent of cabbage and beet seed.
Skagit County also supplies the nation and world with seed for arugula, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, coriander, mustard, parsley, parsnip, rutabaga, Swiss chard, and turnip.
Ecology says the temporary transfer of water rights, which will last through summer, is not quite enough to meet all of the season’s irrigation needs.
Photo courtesy Washington Department of Ecology