The Naches-Cowiche Canal Association holds a variety of easements, rights-of-way and other permissions for the operation, maintenance, and repair of its irrigation canals, ditches, and drains – typically extending 10 – 20 feet on both sides of the centerline of the watercourse. In many cases, such permissions are expressly recorded against the properties. Most easements were established in the early years of canal installation, in the late 1880’s when much of the land was orchard or farmland. The easements may be buried in many years of subdivisions and ownership transfers therefore they may not be readily identified on current title reports. In other cases, such rights arise as a matter of “prescriptive” or “implied” rights under Washington real property and water law principles, based upon the Association’s longstanding use of its canals, ditches and pipe systems. Additionally, often landowners, both of present and generations past, granted such access and use rights to the Association on an informal basis, as a matter of neighborly accommodation.
Irrigation easements and rights-of-way typically allow the use of vehicles and equipment within easement areas, as reasonably necessary for irrigators to safely and reliably deliver water to their customers. Further, Washington law recognizes that the scope and methods of exercising easement rights may change over time, consistent with requirements for the use of new technologies, vehicles, and equipment.
There have been instances where the owners of property adjacent to Association canals have installed improvements within, or otherwise obstructed Association access and use within canal easement areas, requiring the Association to remove these improvements in order to properly service the canal system. In such instances, the costs of improvement removal (including repair to the grounds within the easement which would otherwise not have needed to be disturbed) will fall to the property owner.
The best way for canal adjacent property owners to avoid such situations, is to consult with the Association PROIR to installation of fence, landscape feature, or similar improvement within the Association’s easement area. We urge you to incorporate 20 feet of clearance from the centerline of Association canals and ditches, in your planning. Advance consultation is important because the Association understands that its members deserve to make the fullest possible use of their properties, consistent with Association easement rights. We endeavor to. agree on solutions that facilitate both the property owner’s goals and the Association’s legal right to access, operate and maintain its waterways.
Please contact Canal Maintenance to schedule a site consult.
Office 509-457-6214 x 2