Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined with Crooked River stakeholders Thursday to introduce the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act of 2013, which would 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.
"This legislation is based on an agreement that the senators facilitated among a broad coalition of stakeholders in the region," their statement said.
The U.S. House recently unanimously approved similar legislation proposed by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the second year of House passage for such a bill. A Senate version last year did not come to a vote, leading to negotiations among the various parties this year.
Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm told NewsChannel 21 Thursday, "We look forward to reviewing the text of the legislation and working with the Senate on finally getting this done for Central Oregon."
Here's the rest of the senators' announcement:
"The full potential of the Crooked River and Prineville Reservoir beckoned to central Oregon for decades, but a common agreement has been long out of reach," said Merkley. "Today I am pleased to join with Senator Wyden and many Crooked River stakeholders to realize that full potential. This legislation will provide water certainty for the stakeholders and help provide more economic security for central Oregon."
"This bill addresses all the issues that are important to Central Oregon. It means more jobs, a more secure supply of drinking water for the City of Prineville and ensures clean water for endangered fish," Wyden said. "It also has the added advantage of fixing a historic mistake regarding the boundary of the wild and scenic section of the Crooked River and allowing for the development of a clean source of energy at Bowman Dam."
"I am grateful for the hard work and leadership of Oregon's Senators and many committed stakeholders who have demonstrated Oregon's ability to come together and find a solution to one of Oregon's truly special places," said Governor Kitzhaber. "This legislation not only represents a victory for the Central Oregon economy, but provides certainty for communities, fish, wildlife and native people."
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;
· Allowing the Bowman Dam to be retrofitted to install a hydroelectric turbine and generate low-cost, clean power and create construction jobs;
· 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.
City of Prineville Mayor, Betty Roppe
"We appreciate Senator Merkley's work on this legislation. The City of Prineville needs a new law to secure water from Bowman Dam to meet our residential and business water needs. We look forward to working with Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden and Congressman Walden to get this Crooked River legislation enacted into law."
Crook County Commissioner and Judge, Mike McCabe
"The Senator has worked hard on this bill. We appreciate that it will strengthen agricultural productivity, and create other economic benefits like new hydropower energy, once we have this bill become law."
Robert A. Brunoe, Branch of Natural Resources Manager and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon
"The Merkley-Wyden legislation is the result of countless hours of deliberation of a diverse group of local stakeholders. It helps resolve a decades-long question of how to balance water interests and achieves the maximum mutual benefit for municipal and irrigation users while also ensuring the recovery of salmon, trout and steelhead in the Crooked River."
David Moryc, American Rivers
"By bringing irrigators and conservationists together, Senator Merkley has crafted a uniquely collaborative solution to the age-old challenge of water use in the Wild and Scenic Crooked River watershed. The City of Prineville, irrigation districts, the Confederated Tribe of the Warm Springs, and conservation groups have come together to support a balanced approach, providing certainty for water users while keeping more water in the Wild and Scenic Crooked River to improve recreation and habitat for trout."
North Unit Irrigation District General Manager, Mike Britton
"Our District appreciates Senator Merkley's work. The bill ensures that our district can continue to rely upon small amounts of Crooked River water supplies when circumstances warrant the need for them."
Yancy Lind, President of the Deschutes Basin chapter of the Association of NW Steelheaders
"The Crooked River is one of the most popular waterways for anglers in Oregon on the east side of the Cascades. It has a healthy population of wild and native redband trout and mountain whitefish. It is also critical spawning habitat for recently reintroduced steelhead and salmon, benefitting anglers throughout Oregon who target these fish as they travel through the Columbia and Deschutes rivers. Allocating water to the Crooked River helps ensure the survival of these fish as well as the beavers, otters, eagles, osprey, deer, and other wildlife that rely on the river. Local anglers are proud to be part of the coalition behind this legislation."
Ochoco Irrigation District Chairman, Brian Barney
"Senator Merkley's bill will be helpful to local farmers and ranchers. It will ensure all of us are able to rely upon the certainty of Bowman Dam water supplies as we have for the past 50 years."
Kimberley Priestley, WaterWatch of Oregon
"This collaborative bill is a blueprint for a healthier Crooked River and secure water supply for local communities, backed by a broad coalition of irrigation, municipal, tribal and conservation interests. It will bring significant benefits to Central Oregon, and we hope Congress passes this bill without delay."
Portland General Electric Vice President of Public Policy, Dave Robertson
"Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden have crafted a balanced, sustainable bill. This supports the collaborative work of farmers, environmental advocates, government agencies, the Tribes and others – including Portland General Electric – to help meet municipal, power generation, and agricultural needs in Central Oregon while improving stream flows and facilitating reintroduction of native fish. We look forward to working with the entire Oregon delegation to get this enacted into law "