SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington is fining some landowners near Moses Lake $618,000 for illegally pumping more than 500 million gallons from the declining Odessa aquifer.

The state Department of Ecology in June issued cease and desist orders requiring the landowners to stop pumping groundwater on more than 500 acres of crops. But the landowners continued to pump water for 3½ months.

The Odessa aquifer has been declining since 1980. The agency says groundwater has dropped more than 200 feet.

The Legislature in 2004 prohibited using water from the Odessa aquifer for irrigation when water from the Columbia River is available.

The Ecology Department says the estimated value of crops grown on the illegally irrigated lands is more than $1 million.

Penalties can be appealed within 30 days.

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