WaterWatch continues to advocate for Oregon Rivers through a variety of means, including advocacy, education, monitoring (esp. related to water rights), and, river restoration and efficiency projects.
With the Oregon Legislature in session WaterWatch is devoting considerable energy advocating for sensible, balanced water policies and fighting to defeat the most damaging bills. WaterWatch staff also participate in several legislative workgroups, including:
Oregon Solutions Project for Columbia River - this group has developed consensus options that should lead to additional water for Umatilla farmers that rely soleley on winter water; WaterWatch successfully staved off proposals to open up the Columbia for for withdrawls during low water seasons and secured the group's commitment that no legislation that undermines Columbia River Fisheries Laws will be introduced.
State Bonding Task Force - this group was convened by the Governor to create a new fund for water development and management projects using lottery backed funds and general obligation bonds for loans. WaterWatch is negotiating to secure requirements that projects developed through this fund would protect streamflows and rivers.
Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) - WaterWatch is a participating member and worked to get two bills adopted as priorities for the group - SB 659, a water right administration fee bill; and SB 401, a bill to designate additional scenic waterways across Oregon. The extensive expansion of proposed State Scenic Waterway designation emerged as a response to the proliferation of suction dredge mining on rivers, primarily in SW Oregon.
In Conduit Hydropower - WaterWatch is attending meetings of this workgroup advocating to keep fish passage requirements on in conduit hydropower (i.e., not on a dam).
Check out our pressroom for more information: http://waterwatch.org/pressroom
Here's a sampling of the projects WaterWatch has worked on this summer of 2012.
Water Use Accountability: WaterWatch launched a water use accountability project to increase compliance with existing water rights, protecting junior water use, restore river health and secure improved water management. In 2012, efforts have focused on locating funding, personnel, reconnaissance/scoping level fieldwork, GIS mapping and database preparation and equipment purchases. In addition, WaterWatch investigated certain John Day tributaries to evaluate water rights of record and began plotting these rights and points of diversion. Going forward, we are preparing to begin field work in the spring and summer of 2013
Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy Project (WISE): The WISE project has been named an Oregon Solutions project and received a grant of $243,000 from the Water Resources Department. WaterWatch is participating in this project with irrigation districts, local governments and conservation interests to set restoration priorities, identify opportunities to collaborate, and support projects where the Committee’s help can help further identified projects. This project affects Little Butte and Bear Creeks in the Rogue Basin. Now, the project is seeking funding to complete environmental impact analyses.
Clackamas River: A gem in Portland’s backyard! Oregon has proposed to allow 150 cfs of new municipal water withdrawals from the lower Clackamas via eight old, un- or underdeveloped permits. Oregon’s decision undermines a state law intended to protect the viability of imperiled fish species while allowing responsible municipal water development. Therefore, WaterWatch has challenged Oregon’s decisions to secure better protection for Clackamas River streamflows and imperiled fish. WaterWatch is involved in ongoing litigation in the matter, which is currently before the Oregon Court of Appeals. The matter is now fully briefed and awaiting oral argument.
McKenzie River: To protect the McKenzie, WaterWatch challenged a speculative attempt by a private entity to obtain entitlements to develop 34 cfs from the McKenzie. Oregon proposed to grant this entitlement despite an almost complete absence of water need, demand data, infrastructure or land use compatibility or permits. In May, WaterWatch won the first round of the case. An Administrative Law Judge agreed with WaterWatch and recommended against issuing this permit. This is an important victory. This result generated favorable media coverage and an interim hearing in the legislature.
Rogue River: WaterWatch continues to build on the momentum and success of the Free the Rogue Campaign by advancing the case for removal of other harmful and obsolete dams. WaterWatch is currently moving forward on three such dams in the Rogue Basin.
Crooked River: WaterWatch participated in negotiations with the two Oregon Senators, tribes, state and local governments, local irrigation districts and other conservation groups to determine the fate of unallocated water behind Bowman Dam. In August, the Senators introduced the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act (S. 3483) that provides significant improvements for fish and river habitat in the Crooked River while balancing the water needs of farmers, public utilities and cities. WaterWatch hopes to support passage of this bill in the next Congress.
Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy: After three years of negotiation, Oregon adopted its first Integrated Water Resources Strategy in August. Legislation secured by WaterWatch in 2009 directed Oregon to create a state water strategy. The Strategy addresses Oregon’s future instream and out of stream water needs and, if implemented correctly, will begin to address the nexus between water quantity and water quality across Oregon. Key instream components in the Strategy that resulted directly from WaterWatch’s involvement include direction to establish hundreds of new instream water rights (including protections for peak and ecological streamflows), establishment of new scenic waterways, increased measurement of water use, better water management and increased field and scientific services to better manage Oregon’s water resources. This represents a significant step forward for the state. Now, WaterWatch is supporting additional agency capacity to begin implementing the Strategy, including key instream elements to benefit Oregon's rivers.
Rogue Water Diversion Update:WaterWatch received a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to fund the preparation of engineering design alternatives and help determine the feasibility of modifying the works or removing the wing dam at the Gold Hill Irrigation Diversion Project on the Rogue River. River Design Group has been retained to prepare the design alternatives. Design options are nearly completed. WaterWatch and the project partners will then evaluate these options and decide on the best option for implementation that meets the needs of fish, the Rogue River and the irrigation district. WaterWatch will then seek funding for reconfiguring the diversion to meet these needs.