House passes Walden water bill
The House of Representatives today passed with unanimous support the Oregon Water Resources Management Act, sponsored by Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). The bill, H.R. 495, addresses four separate water conservation and dam safety projects in southern, eastern, and central Oregon. It was also approved by the House last year, but did not receive action in the Senate.
"These acts provide important tools to help balance 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. "Now that the Oregon Water Resources Management Act has received solid bipartisan support for two straight sessions, I will continue to work closely with the Senate to ensure that this legislation gets to the President's desk as quickly as possible so we can deliver sound results for water users, conservation groups and the public across Oregon."
Similar legislation in the Senate has been introduced in the form of individual bills. They have not yet been taken up on the Senate floor.
Oregon Water Resources Management Act
Ø DESCHUTES, CROOK, JEFFERSON COUNTIES:
The Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization Act
The Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) Reauthorization Act reauthorizes the DRC and allows for $2 million in annual federal assistance through 2015. Its authorization expired in 2006; without it, the DRC is not eligible for federal investments. 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. H.R. 495 would also ensure that the agriculture community continues to have a place at the table by devoting two seats on the DRC Board to represent farmers actively irrigating more than 100 acres of land.
"The Deschutes River Conservancy is delighted to hear that the Oregon Water Resources Management Act was passed by the House," said Tod Heisler, executive director of the DRC. "The act will help to restore Oregon's rivers and streams while providing demonstrable benefits to farmers as well. We are grateful for Congressman Walden's foresight and leadership on this bill that is so important for the future of all Oregonians."
Ø JEFFERSON COUNTY
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 allows 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.
"All of the 900 families who farm and ranch in the North Unit Irrigation District greatly appreciate Congressman Walden's hard work to pass our water conservation legislation in the House of Representatives," said Richard Macy, chairman of the North Unit Irrigation District Board of Directors. "Once enacted, the legislation will allow our district to work with the State of Oregon and others to conserve water, conserve energy and to return water back to the Deschutes River for salmon and steelhead."
Ø WALLOWA COUNTY
The Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act
The Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation 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 both the safety and economy of the local community, and this legislation would 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.
"The Wallowa County Board of Commissioners recognizes the accomplishment of Congressman Greg Walden in the passage of the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act," said Wallowa County Commissioner Ben Boswell. "The concerns of all have been considered and addressed as the authorization of federal funds will mitigate the impact of federal regulations without loss of local control."
Ø JACKSON COUNTY
The Little Butte/Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act
The Little Butte/Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation 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 would 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 helped pass this legislation twice previously in the House while it has not passed in the Senate, and he will continue to support locally-based water conservation projects.
"The Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy (WISE) Project Advisory Committee is very pleased to hear of the passage of H.R. 495 in the House, and wants to thank Congressman Walden for his efforts on this legislation, which has been in the works since late 2003," said Jim Hill, the Water Reclamation Division administrator for the city of Medford. "Passage of H.R. 495 will allow us to proceed with the WISE Project Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement, the first step in assuring comprehensive water management for the future of the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon."