Central Oregon water dispute settled in bill that wins last-minute congressional passage

Dec 12, 2014

The Oregonian

Central Oregon water dispute settled in bill that wins last-minute congressional passage Congress late Thursday passed a bill that settles water management issues on Central Oregon's Crooked River and allows hydroelectric development at Bowman Dam.

The legislation was hammered out by two Oregon lawmakers -- Republican Rep. Greg Walden and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley -- and sped through both chambers in the waning days of the congressional lame-duck session.

Supporters say the bill will provide more certain water supplies for the city of Prineville, farmers and for fish passage. The legislation also moved the boundaries of the wild and scenic river protection, allowing the development of hydroelectric power at Bowman.

Merkley and Walden had introduced different versions of the bill and had debated what kind of protections should be included to ensure the healthy conditions for fish. In the end, it included provisions that Merkley and Walden said would implement a "collaborative water management vision" supported by a wide variety of interest groups to ensure adequate flows for fish.

The Bend Bulletin said the agreement allows the Bureau of Reclamation to release enough water to provide a flow of about 80 cubic feet per second, but not to the point that the reservoir is drained.

-- Jeff Mapes

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