Snohomish farmer fights $11,000 water bill

SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- Jay Hagen spends much of his time these days hauling water up the hill for his thirsty animals across the road. He does it over and over again, morning, noon and night.

"It's a lot of work, but I have to take care of the animals," he said.

That's because water, the lifeblood of his family farm, has been shut off to much of the property since August 12, and it won't be turned back on until Hagen pays a bill of more than $11,000.

"They're trying to extort something from me," he said. "And I'm sick of it."

Here's what's going on.

In addition to the farm, Hagen also has his home and two houses that he rents to vacationers on his land. The Cross Valley Water District recently found out, and decided Hagen should be paying for a separate water meter for those properties, even though he has been operating this way for the past 50 years.

"No one is stealing water here," he says. "That's what's really crazy."

Hagen thinks he should be grandfathered in, but Cross Valley officials say that argument doesn't hold water.

"Why is he different?" asks General Manager Curt Brees. "Why should he not pay what every other customer has paid? That amount might have been different 50 years ago, but the value of that money has changed over 50 years."

Hagen says he has contacted his local politicians and received no support. He's increasingly concerned about the prospects of a barn fire with our hot, dry summer and no direct water access.

For now, the farmer is refusing to pay, continuing to make the tiresome slog up that hill, saying he's in this fight for the long haul.


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