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Public Statements

Central Oregon Water Security Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Grijalva, for your support for the commonsense Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act.

This bill we have before us today will create jobs in central Oregon, remove government red tape. It will protect family farmers and improve both water flows and quality of water for fish and for wildlife, all without costing taxpayers one cent. We made it completely cost-neutral.

Now the city of Prineville is the county seat of Crook County. It's located in the heart of Oregon's central Oregon, and it's along the Crooked River. Crook County was among the hardest hit in the economic downturn that we have all suffered, where unemployment even today--even today--is at over 14 percent, one of the highest rates, if not the highest, in the State of Oregon.

Nonetheless, jobs and economic growth are on the rise in Crook County. Facebook recently built their first custom data center in Prineville and is currently expanding that project. Apple recently announced that it is going to build a data center there and has actually already begun construction.

Chairman Hastings knows well how important the technology sector can be to rural communities. Prineville is on the verge of becoming another Quincy, Washington, which is home to Yahoo, Microsoft, Dell, and others.

To pursue new economic development, however, Prineville needs more water. Roughly 20 miles upriver from Prineville sits Bowman Dam and Prineville Reservoir, a Bureau of Reclamation project, which holds 80,000 acre feet of uncontracted water, 80,000 acre feet that is just sitting there uncontracted.

This bill would allow Prineville to access roughly 6 percent of that water, or 5,100 acre feet, and the city would pay a fair market value for the water. That extra water would allow the city to tell prospective companies, hey, you can bring your business and jobs to Prineville. We now have the water that you need. That's certainty in the job market.

It would also allow the city to provide water to an additional 500 homes within the city limits, which currently the city of Prineville can't do because it has maxed out its mitigation credits. You're talking about 500 homes inside the city limits that don't have access to city water that this bill now will allow them to have access to.

Because the city would access the water through the ground and not from directly behind the dam, that extra allocation of water would increase the minimum release of water from Bowman Dam by up to 7 cubic feet per second. Now, that's a lot.

In dry years, particularly in the winter, this higher release requirement could benefit fish and wildlife, including the blue-ribbon trout fishery below Bowman Dam.

This legislation also fixes a BLM error regarding the exact location of the Crooked River wild and scenic boundary line. Currently, the wildlife and scenic line runs directly over the crest of Bowman Dam. Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Grijalva, let me assure there's nothing wild or scenic about the top of a dam unless you're falling over the edge of it. This is a picture of where that is. If you follow the center line of this road, that's where the current law says the wild and scenic boundary starts. We move it downriver, where it really belongs.

As a result, we create another economic opportunity for the region--development of small-scale renewable hydropower that would create roughly 50 construction jobs over the course of 2 years. This dam doesn't have hydro on it today. Adding the hydro actually improves the release of the water, making it better for the fish, and it creates new hydroenergy and construction jobs. My legislation also protects the Ochoco Irrigation District farmers and assures they will continue to operate their family-run farms for generations to come.

Finally, this bill expedites the McKay Creek project, which will result in increased water flows for redband trout and summer steelhead. This project has long been supported by the Warm Springs Tribe and the Deschutes River Conservancy. So I want to thank and commend the Warm Springs tribal leaders and tribal members for their hard work and working in partnership with me on this legislation. Their collaborative approach has really made a difference in issues in the Deschutes Basin, and we appreciate the partnership and leadership that the tribal leaders have shown.

This is a good, commonsense, job-creating bill. It's a culmination of years of collaboration between the City of Prineville, Crook County, farmers, the Warm Springs Tribes, and the Deschutes River Conservancy.

I want to thank Mayor Roppe and County Judge McCabe for their leadership in working through this process. Mayor Roppe has testified before the House Natural Resources Committee and has done an excellent job advocating for the City of Prineville. Judge McCabe has worked tirelessly on these issues to attract tech companies like Facebook and Apple to Crook County. Hopefully, with positive steps like the passage of this legislation, more companies will soon bring their jobs to Prineville and central Oregon.

So I appreciate the assistance of Ranking Member Ed Markey, along with Ranking Member Grace Napolitano and, of course, Mr. Grijalva, as well as Chairman Hastings. Thank you again for your help in moving forward on the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act. I look forward to this legislation finally becoming law.


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