Walden announces plans to introduce bipartisan water conservation and dam safety bills Tuesday
During his 287th return home to Oregon from our nation's capital since first being elected, Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today announced at a Bend meeting with irrigation district and environmental coalition representatives his plans to introduce the Oregon Water Resources Management Act and the Tumalo Water Conservation Act when he returns to Washington, D.C. tomorrow.
"The programs supported in these bills are vital for striking a balance between land use, conservation, and public safety. Proper management of water is one of the most serious issues in many parts of Oregon , and the projects included in this bill see to it that water is handled the right way," Walden said. "The Oregon Water Resources Management Act received solid bipartisan support in the House last session, and I've already had productive discussions with the new leadership on the House Resources Committee regarding it getting favorable attention this session. I will continue to work closely with our Senators to get this legislation to the President's desk as quickly as possible so we can deliver sound results for water users, conservation groups and the public across central, southern and eastern Oregon."
The Oregon Water Resources Management Act addresses four separate water conservation and dam safety projects in central, eastern and southern Oregon . It was approved by the House with strong support last year, but the bill did not receive a vote in the Senate before the session ended in late December. Thus, the bill must be reintroduced in the new Congress. The Tumalo Water Conservation Act would provide federal assistance to the Tumalo Irrigation District's (TID) water conservation project in the Middle Deschutes Basin.
Oregon Water Resources Management Act
Ø The Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization Act
The Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization (DRC) Act would reauthorize the DRC and allow for $2 million in annual federal assistance through 2015. The DRC was originally authorized by Congress in 1996 to implement water conservation measures in the Deschutes River Basin . The DRC has brought together landowners, environmentalists, tribes and local governments to find common ground and achieve successes through efforts such as riparian area fencing, the planting of trees, reconstructing stream beds and enhancing stream flows in the Deschutes River Basin . Congressman Walden has worked closely with the DRC since he was first elected and has toured many of their projects over the last eight years.
Ø The North Unit Irrigation District Act
The North Unit Irrigation District (NUID) provides farmers and ranchers in a 50,000 acre area in Jefferson County with irrigation water from the Deschutes River . The legislation would allow farmers and ranchers on 9,000 acres in the district to receive water conserved on the Deschutes River , reducing diversions from the Crooked River . The proposed changes would strictly adhere to existing Oregon law and directly benefit 900 farmers and ranchers in Deschutes County who grow alfalfa hay, grass seed, garlic seed and carrot seed as well as raise cattle, sheep, horses and other livestock. Congressman Walden has met several times with NUID management to discuss the positive conservation and water delivery aspects of this legislation.
Ø The Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act
The Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to provide grants or enter into cooperative agreements with tribes, the state, local governments and the Associated Ditch Companies to plan, design and repair Wallowa Lake Dam and preserve the valuable water recreation site behind the dam. The bill would authorize $6 million in federal assistance and require an even cost share match between federal and local dollars. Rehabilitation of the Wallowa Lake Dam , which has been identified as a high-hazard structure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is very important to the local community and this legislation will help advance local efforts to see such work completed. Congressman Walden has worked with county commissioners and the Associated Ditch Companies and held a number of meetings on the legislation leading up to its final draft.
Ø The Little Butte/Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act
The Little Butte/Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act would authorize the BOR to conduct a much-needed water management feasibility study at the Little Butte and Bear Creak watersheds as outlined in the agency's agreement with Medford for the Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy (WISE) project. This legislation will help foster collaborative efforts between federal, state and local governments all working together on the WISE project to benefit cities, irrigators, fish and the environment throughout the Rogue Valley. Congressman Walden has helped pass this legislation in the House twice¸ and will continue to support locally-based water conservation projects.
Tumalo Water Conservation Act
The Tumalo Water Conservation Act would authorize the Interior Department to assist in the planning, design, and construction of the Tumalo Irrigation District Water Conservation Project in Deschutes County . The Middle Deschutes River has, in the past, been reduced to seasonal flows as low as 30 cfs, and the goal for this project is to enhance that flow to eventually achieve 250 cfs for the Middle Deschutes basin. The completed project, including other work by TID, will deliver pressurized water to TID irrigators during drought years, whereas they now receive an inadequate water supply in 8 out of 10 years. Once completed, this project is projected to enhance in-stream flows and improve habitat for listed species. In the last session, Congressman Walden worked closely with TID and the House Resources Committee to raise awareness of the project's importance.
Congressman Walden represents 20 counties in central, southern and eastern Oregon . He is a Deputy Whip in the House Leadership Structure and a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.