Crook County

Walden talks water, hydropower in Prineville

Joined by Crook Co. leaders, urges Senate to take up legislation

Congressman Greg Walden Talks Water in Prineville

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Could a third time be a charm for Oregon Rep. Greg Walden? A bill that would move the wild and scenic river designation on the Crooked River, now sits in the Senate. Last month, it passed the House unanimously.

Last year, a similar bill passed the House, only to make it to the Senate, which ran out of time to hear it.

"The real message now is, it's time for the Senate to act," Walden said at a news conference in Prineville on Tuesday. "it's time for the Senate to take up this legislation, get it through, so we don't have to pass it a third time in the house."

It was a sentiment shared by many in the community.

"I would rather have a mean mother-in-law with a twin sister than have to go through this again," Crook County Judge Mike McCabe said.

Prineville city officials say they need more water -- currently, there are about 500 homes that are not serviced by the city.

"We have 500 homes on shallow wells with septic systems, and we will eventually need to move them to the water supply of our city,"  Mayor Betty Roppe said.

Walden added, "The water that would be released, the city would pay for. The cornerstones in this discussion is that we don't create another mini-Klamath."

The legislation would put more water in the river and allow for less to be taken out of McKay Creek by ranchers and farmers. In turn, it would allow for more fish habitat and restoration

Opponents of the bill say they don't think the bill releases enough water for fish protection. But Walden says his bill leaves quite a bit of water unallocated behind Bowman Dam.

"We can have that discussion down the road," Walden said. "It doesn't have to be part of this bill. We don't preclude that from happening in the future with this bill, but we solve all of these other problems in this bill -- this is what we can actually get done. "

With Crook County hit hard by the recession, Walden says his bill will create jobs and bring more business to the area.

A small hydropower plant would be built at the base of Bowman Dam and serve two purposes: help reduce nitrogen in the water for fish and generate power for homes.

"That's what we need in Central Oregon -- more jobs," Walden said. "The good thing about this is, it doesn't cost the federal government a thing."

Walden wrapped up his two-day Central Oregon swing with a private tour of the top-secret Apple data center, not far from Facebook's.

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