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Senate panel OKs Crooked River water bill


Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Wednesday hailed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s passage of the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act of 2013, which moves the bill one step closer to becoming law.

“This legislation is all about providing water certainty and laying a foundation for economic growth in Prineville and across Central Oregon,” said Merkley.

“The stakeholders have done great work in coming together around a common vision after years of division. Now it’s time for Congress to act, and it’s great news that today the Senate has moved one step closer to getting this bill signed into law,” he added.

“This bill uses an innovative approach, supported by the community of Prineville, local irrigators who will gain certainty for their livelihoods and conservation groups and the Warm Springs Tribes due to the benefits to fish and wildlife,” Wyden said. “This is Oregon managing Oregon’s business ,and I commend Senator Merkley for his efforts to advance this bill.”

Merkley and Wyden introduced the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act last November to provide a framework for improving the management of water in the Crooked River while creating opportunities for economic growth and new jobs in Central Oregon.

The legislation is based on an agreement that the senators facilitated among a broad coalition of stakeholders in the region.

The Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act of 2013 would provide numerous benefits to water users and the Central Oregon region, by:

Meeting the municipal water needs for the city of Prineville long into the future so the city can continue to attract new businesses like data centers that require reliable water supplies;
Providing greater certainty for the agricultural community that depends on the Crooked River for irrigation;
Allowing water to be released from Bowman Dam to help maintain a healthy steelhead, salmon and trout fisheries, which are cherished by local fishermen;
Moving the federal wild and scenic river boundary from the top of the dam, fixing an administrative error that has blocked efforts to retrofit Bowman Dam with hydroelectric turbine, and generate clean power;
Creating a process to help better plan for dry years, in terms of the impact on fish habitat and fishing, as well as boating and other recreational activities.

The legislation is endorsed by the City of Prineville, Crook County, the Governor of Oregon, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, American Rivers, Deschutes Basin Board of Control (representing all seven major irrigation districts in Central Oregon), NW Steelheaders, Ochoco and North Unit Irrigation Districts, Portland General Electric, Trout Unlimited, and WaterWatch.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has been working on similar legislation in the House.

In fact, Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm said Walden’s version of the Crooked River water legislation passed the House back in October — the second time it’s passed that body unanimously in 500 days.

Malcolm said Wednesday that Walden “is encouraged that the Senate has finally moved forward on this bill for the first time.”

“Although concerns with the Senate version remain,” he said, the congressman “looks forward to the Senate continuing to move forward, so we can get this done for Central Oregon.”

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