- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

DAYTON, Wash. (AP) - Ecology officials have fined an apple and pear orchard in southeast Washington $73,530 for illegally diverting water from the Touchet River during the drought.

The Department of Ecology told 67 irrigators to stop using water during July and August to save it for fish and farmers with senior rights.

But Warren Orchards in Columbia County continued to irrigate at night. Officials say the orchard used 90-acre-feet of water from the river.

Metering data showed that Warren illegally diverted water for 44 days, hurting others who had rights to the water.

Warren’s illegal water use also reduced the river’s flow for nearly 50 miles, which provides critical habitat for threatened steelhead.

Warren has 30 days to appeal the penalty and order to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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