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Washington State Cracks Down On Private Dams

In Northwest farm country, growers build large earthen dams to hold water for their crops. But recently some of those dams have failed. Now Washington state officials say they are cracking down on farmers who build private dams without permits. Correspondent Anna King explains.

The dams create massive ponds. Farmers use the stored water for irrigation or to protect crops from frost.

The state Department of Ecology wants farmers to make sure their dams are properly engineered.

Doug Johnson says aerial photography helps find the ponds. He says it’s quick and easy.

Doug Johnson: "I spent five minutes with some aerial photos around Sunnyside and counted seven ponds that were big enough or they appear big enough to be jurisdictional. And you know that’s five minutes worth of work."

The state is focusing on farmers who have ponds larger than two acres.

Farmers have until September to come forward and get a permit. Those who don’t cooperate could get fines up to $5,000 a day.