November 27, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bill good for Ochoco district

Nov 28, 2011

November 27, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bill good for Ochoco district

Bill good for Ochoco district

By Doug Breese
Published: November 27. 2011 4:00AM PST

As a lifelong resident of Crook County and patron of Ochoco Irrigation District, I support Rep. Greg Walden’s bill, HR 2060, the “Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act.”

My great-grandfather homesteaded in the Prineville area in 1885. I am a fourth generation rancher/farmer and my children and grandchildren are also involved in the day-to-day operations, resulting in the fifth and sixth generations of farmers in our community. Our ranch is located on the banks of Ochoco Creek, and we know the value and importance of streams both for sustaining life and jobs — including fish and wildlife — and recreation.

The district was formed in 1916 for the purpose of constructing Ochoco Dam and Reservoir to irrigate 20,000 acres of farmland. Before the Bowman Dam was built, the district struggled through frequent water shortages because of the unreliability of Ochoco Reservoir re-filling.

In the mid-1950s, the district’s manager — LaSalle Coles — along with Crook County judge A.R. Bowman, pursued the construction of Bowman Dam. Their tireless efforts to protect and better our community are remarkable. The primary project purposes of Bowman Dam were to provide certainty for local irrigators and flood control, with recreation and fish and wildlife as incidental benefits. Since the completion of Bowman Dam, an incredible fishery has existed above and below the dam. Today, the Crooked River is host to one of the finest redband trout fisheries in the state. Boating, fishing and recreating at Prineville Reservoir are also renowned statewide.

In 1958, the U.S. government entered into a contract — a promise — with the district. The government agreed to construct Bowman Dam and the needed facilities for the Crooked River Project. The government also agreed that the project would store all available water, while maintaining requirements for flood control and a minimum release of 10 cubic feet per second for fisheries. In turn, the district agreed to operate, maintain, and repay its share of construction, as well as put the water to beneficial use. Today water users range from less than one acre to larger producing farms and ranches, providing water for everything from gardens, 4-H projects and local parks to larger producers of food.

I am a firm believer in “a deal is a deal,” and to date the promises made by the contract have been upheld. The district’s water users continue to repay their share of the project’s construction costs, and — since the completion of the dam 50 years ago — the district has had a reliable water supply from Bowman Dam, even in some of the worst of droughts.

Besides the district’s sustainability, HR 2060 will create the flexibility and certainty needed to jump start the local economy. With unemployment the highest in the state, our local farms and businesses need to know that their livelihoods will not be jeopardized or compromised as a result of a lack of water.

As HR 2060 is currently written, local farmers will continue to irrigate the same lands and at the same rate as they have done for the last 50 years. With the certainty of new water supplies, Prineville will be able to attract new businesses. The Crooked River will continue to benefit from the releases of water for irrigation and flood control as well as the new instream release.

One only needs to visit with district staff and local officials to understand the dedication and unprecedented amount of time and financial resources already contributed to improving our local fisheries and environment. The local community appreciates and understands the importance of our reservoirs, rivers and streams, as we believe that’s what makes our community unique.

As a longtime community member and supporter, my family recognizes the many benefits of agriculture and improving our rivers and streams. We proudly support Rep. Walden’s legislation and encourage you to do the same. We truly believe it is a win for the environment as well as the community.

— Doug Breese lives in Prineville.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2011
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