Legislation written by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Greg Walden to improve water management and grow jobs in Central Oregon has become law now that the President has signed the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security and Jobs Act. The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate and House late last week, delivering Central Oregon a major victory towards improved water certainty and a stronger foundation to grow the economy and create jobs.
“After many years of hard work, our Central Oregon jobs and water plan is now the law of the land. This bill is a win for jobs in Central Oregon. It provides much needed water to Prineville for city residents and economic development, ensures certainty for farmers, improves fish habitat for tribes and other fishermen, paves the way for energy generation at Bowman Dam, and protects recreation. I’d like to again thank everyone who came together on this important bill, and pledge that I’ll work hard to ensure that it is implemented promptly,” Walden said.
“Having this bill signed into law is a great holiday gift to the Central Oregon community,” said Merkley. “A new water management plan will provide so many benefits to the region: increased municipal water to support growth in Prineville, new potential for hydropower energy, a certain supply of water for farmers and ranchers, and a healthy river ecosystem to restore fish and promote tourism and recreation. With this vision now being put into action, Central Oregon will be a model for how to manage our water resources in a way that is truly better for the whole community.”
Senator Merkley and Representative Walden have been working intensely to agree on legislation and to clear a path for passage in both houses of Congress. The legislation will implement the collaborative water management vision developed by local stakeholders in Central Oregon, including the city of Prineville, Crook County, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, American Rivers, Deschutes Basin Board of Control (representing the seven major irrigation districts in Central Oregon), NW Steelheaders, Ochoco and North Unit Irrigation Districts, Portland General Electric, Trout Unlimited, WaterWatch, and Central Oregon Flyfishers.
The legislation will 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 healthy steelhead, salmon and trout fisheries, which are cherished by local fishermen;
Moving the federal wild and scenic river boundary from the top of the dam, fixing an administrative error that has blocked efforts to retrofit Bowman Dam to generate clean hydroelectric power; and
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.
Last week, The Bulletinin Bend urged the President to sign the bill, declaring, “Walden, Merkley get Bowman Dam right.”
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