PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Prineville's Bowman Dam isn't just holding back water -- city leaders say it's also holding back the future of the city.
And there's a federal bill on the line , once again, that could bring changes.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and the issue brought him to Prineville for a lunch meeting with city leaders and businesses on Wednesday.
"(We need )to get water for the city, to keep our agriculture whole, make water available for fish," said Crook County Judge Mike McCabe.
Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe agrees.
"We want to be proactive, and we are looking out into the future, as to what we will need for the next 30 years for our community and businesses coming into our community," Roppe said.
Water is "stuck" behind the dam under federal law. The dam's portion of the Crooked River is federally designated as "wild and scenic" -- meaning it's hard to touch.
It's something the community and Walden are trying to change.
"(We want to) open up the face of the dam so we can do (a) hydro(electric project) there, create 50 jobs, construction jobs for two years, generate hydroelectric, secure water for the city, secure water for the farmers," Walden said.
This will be the second time Walden is fighting for the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act; last year, it passed in the House but never made it to a vote in the Senate.
"It was really more than frustration," McCabe said. "Because it's a very expensive process along with all that."
McCabe said the city and county have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars working on the issue.
Walden said there's one reason the bill didn't pass last year -- and he said it will be the same problem the dam faces this year.
"There's some extremists who want to dedicate every lost drop out of the reservoir now, in statute, to the river, and that's the holdup," Walden said.
The bill recently passed a House committee. Walden says he's hopeful for success -- and Roppe is crossing her fingers.
"I'm really anxious to see this go through," Roppe said. "There's nothing 'wild and scenic' about the road going across the dam."