U.S. Rep Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will soon introduce no-cost legislation in the House of Representatives to fix the boundary line of the Crooked River Wild and Scenic River Area to place Bowman Dam outside of the "wild and scenic" land, and allocate extra water to the city of Prineville, moves that will create new jobs and economic opportunities for Crook County.
The boundary line problem
Utilities have expressed interest in developing small-scale hydropower at the base of Bowman Dam -- such a facility could produce enough carbon-free energy to power up to 4,500 homes, according to press reports in the Bulletin. The construction alone would create dozens of good-paying construction jobs.
But as the law is written right now, this commonsense project and the good jobs it would provide can't happen.
In 1988, Congress designated 17.8 miles of the Crooked River as part of the "wild and scenic" rivers system, which is charged with preserving rivers with "outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations."
But when the BLM drew up the maps for the new wild and scenic area on the Crooked River after the 1988 designation, they placed one end of the boundary right down the middle of Bowman Dam.
"There is nothing wild and scenic about a dam," Rep. Walden said.
Hydropower is not permitted in wild and scenic areas, so an act of Congress is required to fix the mistake and place the boundary line below the dam, where it should have been all along. Doing so will allow the hydropower project -- and the jobs it would create -- to go forward.
In a letter sent to Rep. Walden in 2008, BLM State Director Ed Shepard said, "The BLM does not believe that it was the intent of Congress to place the wild and scenic river boundary on the center of the dam or to even include the dam, but rather just below the dam and spillway structures."
No-cost solution that creates jobs
Rep. Walden plans to introduce legislation in the House this month to move the boundary line a short distance to ensure the dam is no longer included in the wild and scenic area.
"Moving the boundary line is a no-cost solution to taxpayers that would lead directly to much-needed new jobs and economic development in Crook County."
The small-scale hydropower project would not affect the flow of water to fish downstream.
"This commonsense legislation is exactly the kind of bill that can move quickly through this Congress," Rep. Walden said.
Additional water for the city of Prineville
Additionally, part of the legislation would allow the city of Prineville to utilize 5,100 acre feet of water needed to meet future growth needs and allow it to attract new job-creating business opportunities like that of Facebook, which recently came to Prineville.
Currently, there is around 80,000 acre feet of unallocated water in Prineville Reservoir. The 5,100 acre feet for Prineville represents a small fraction that will help create jobs and improve business opportunities.
The extra allocation for Prineville will not impact the flow of water downstream for fish.
Crook County's unemployment rate of 19.2 percent is the highest in the state.
"Prineville should have the necessary tools to assist in creating jobs and new economic opportunities," Rep. Walden said. "This small amount of water will help do just that."