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.
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.
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.
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 four such dams - three in the Rogue Basin and Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua River.
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.
Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy: After three years of negotiation, Oregon adopted its first Strategy on August 3. 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.
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. If design alternatives are produced that appear to meet the needs of all parties, the parties will seek funding for implementation of a design alternative that reduces impacts to both migrating fish and the Rogue River.
In the past 90 days, WaterWatch has protected and restored Oregon’s rivers for fish, wildlife and the people who depend on healthy rivers in the following ways:
WaterWatch organized the opposition that defeated a proposal in the Oregon Legislature to take more water from the Columbia River at times when migrating salmon need the water.
WaterWatch made progress on securing removal of three obsolete dams that block or hinder fish passage in the Rogue River Basin. Two of these barriers are on an important tributary to the Rogue. One is on the main stem Rogue.
WaterWatch continued to challenge an attempt to develop large volumes of water from the McKenzie River at the expense of imperiled fish species in the river.
WaterWatch secured cancellation of several abandoned water rights in the John Day River Basin.
WaterWatch completed a report on municipal water conservation practices in the Portland metropolitan area. This report summarizes and compares the water conservation practices of multiple water providers serving over 1 million people in the metro region.
WaterWatch continued to secure equitable treatment for instream values in Oregon’s water future by influencing the development of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy.
Finally, WaterWatch shed light in the media on the dire 2012 water situation facing the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, including Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuges, two of the most important wetland areas in the nation for migrating waterfowl.