There are many farmers and landowners in Oregon subjected to the questionable practices of their irrigation districts and the laws that are surprisingly extortionate yet still on the books.  

I was living in Arizona a year ago quite oblivious to what was happening in Oregon when I received a certified letter stating that a lien had been placed on a Hermiston property. Because of the delinquency of the current tenants responsible for the irrigation assessment and with no notice until the certified letter arrived, I now had a lien on this property associated with my name.

Feeling I had no recourse, I contacted the irrigation district to make arrangement to pay the assessments. I kept my agreement and made my payments on time. 

Unfortunately, absorbing most of the principal were their inflated legal, administrative and financing fees. It was worse than dealing with a corrupt credit card company. For example, one of the charges included a $198 fee for a $38 filing fee facilitated not by an attorney but by their bookkeeper.

Because of their discrepancies, I decided to read the Oregon statutes.

I was astonished to find that if an individual user becomes delinquent a few days after the due date, regardless of their usage, the irrigation district has the right to place a lien on their property and foreclose shortly thereafter. During the time of default, they can continue to charge assessment even if they no longer provide the water. Comparatively speaking, that is like an electric company continuing to charge for electricity after they have shut it off.

This foreclosure takes priority over any other liens, including mortgages, with the exception of property taxes. These archaic laws lack insight into consequences that encourage extortion and an unfair procurement of one’s real property by the Barney Fifes drunk with power and greed.

Although stated in other Oregon statutes, the ambiguity of the irrigation law does not specifically direct the district to give prior legal notice of lien. Yet, any legal act that constitutes usurping an individual right to property must always serve notice to the defendant.

If there is redemption, the directive does state that the lien must indicate the name of the person to whom the water was delivered. This is where the district interprets this to mean the recorded landowner, not the person(s) using the water. But with no one to monitor or challenge their actions, the district happily admits to executing this practice.

The statutes do state that the district cannot assess and charge someone who is not an elector. One might think this statute would exonerate me. But a woman trying to explain that to a boardroom full of baseball caps is like trying to convince Boehner that Obama a great guy.

I think it’s time we organize and tell our Legislature to rewrite, clarify and revise some of these nefarious laws.

Kat Gallant

Ukiah, Ore.

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