Walden’s jobs-water security bill advances

Greg Walden’s Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act takes important step toward House passage
By Congressman Greg Walden

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Greg Walden’s legislation to create much-needed jobs, clean energy, and water conservation in Crook County took an important step forward today.

The House Natural Resources Committee today voted to send Rep. Walden’s Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act (H.R. 2060) to the House floor, setting up a final vote for passage on the House floor. The bill would fix a boundary line error at Bowman Dam, paving the way for construction of a small scale hydropower facility at the base of the dam. It would also provide job-creating water for the city of Prineville to attract additional projects like Facebook, and give life to important water conservation projects in the region.

“This is exactly the kind of commonsense, no-cost legislation that Congress should be taking up to create good jobs at no cost to the taxpayer,” Rep. Walden said. “Fixing the clerical error at Bowman Dam would give rise to a hydropower project that will create about 50 jobs over the course of two construction seasons. Giving the city of Prineville access to needed additional water will allow them to continue to attract job-creating projects like the recently opened Facebook data center, and could help them fully serve water needs for residents in the city. And the bill would spur the McKay Creek Restoration Project, aiding steelhead migration and emergence. Getting the bill out of committee today is an important step, with a vote on the House floor next in line.”

Crook County Judge Mike McCabe: “It’s going to be so good for the community all the way around and it takes important steps to keep agriculture alive and well. The bill will also help ensure that we can grow out and attract companies like Facebook to help build our community.”

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe: “The passage of H.R. 2060 will enable Prineville to meet its existing and future water supply needs, sustain and create jobs in our community, and attract new businesses. H.R. 2060 would benefit Facebook and all other companies considering Prineville because it ensures a reliable water supply for business development.”

John Mohlis, executive secretary for the Oregon State Building and Trades Council: “Central Oregon’s construction industry continues to feel the impacts of the economic downturn. Proposals like Congressman Walden’s bill making changes to the Bowman Dam, such as for hydropower generation, will help promote economic development and put our workforce back to doing what they do best—working.”

H.R. 2060: Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act
1. Carbon free energy and hydropower jobs . A clerical error led to the boundary line of the Crooked River Wild and Scenic Area being drawn down the middle of Bowman Dam, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dam and reservoir. Correcting the error requires congressional action.

Moving the boundary line only ¼ mile downstream will allow a small-scale, private hydropower facility at the base of Bowman Dam to be constructed.

Construction of such a facility would employ about 50 skilled workers over the course of two construction seasons and would also provide approximately $140,000 in annual property tax revenues to Crook County.

The hydropower facility may also resolve a “total dissolved gas” problem at Bowman Dam. This problem, which occurs at dams around the world, can impair fish and wildlife habitat. The new facility could potentially alleviate this problem, improving habitat in the Crooked River.

2. Job-supporting water for Prineville. The legislation would allow the city of Prineville to utilize 5,100 acre feet of groundwater to meet existing and future demands, and allow it to attract new, sustainable businesses similar to the Facebook data center, which has created new jobs and sparked investment.

Prineville relies solely on groundwater. The legislation would allow the City to secure up to 5,100 acre-feet of “mitigation credits” from the new releases of stored water at the dam into the Crooked River. These supplies would also be protected from diversion by others, benefitting fish and wildlife habitat in the river. These new releases represent a small fraction of the 80,000 acre feet of un-contracted water stored annually in the Reservoir.

The new releases will increase existing minimum releases by a total of 7 cubic feet per second (cfs) over the entire year. In dry years, particularly in the winter, this higher release requirement could benefit fish and wildlife, including the blue-ribbon trout fishery below Bowman Dam.

The water allocation for Prineville will also help the city create jobs and improve business opportunities. The city is currently in talks with multiple technology companies that are interested in locating to Prineville, but have indicated that the availability of water is a key consideration in their final decision.

3. McKay Creek restoration and other conservation efforts. Rep. Walden’s legislation would help spur the McKay Creek restoration project — which has stalled in recent years — by allowing Ochoco Irrigation District to deliver water to upper small family farms on McKay Creek.

The restoration project would restore up to 11.2 cfs of water rights instream to McKay Creek. The project also improves flow during the early summer, a critical period for steelhead emergence and migration. This project is supported by numerous watershed councils and organizations including the Deschutes River Conservancy.

The legislation also allows the Ochoco Irrigation District to participate in the Conserved Water program under Oregon State law, whereby a minimum of 25 percent of the total amount of water conserved must be placed instream, forever, as part of the program. Right now, the Ochoco Irrigation District, because of limitations in its contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, is unable to participate in this program.

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