Editorial - Concerns remain on Bowman Dam bill

August 6, 2012
Editorial - Concerns remain on Bowman Dam bill

The Bowman Dam bill introduced by Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden is for the most part a crowd pleaser.

Prinevillewould get access to more water. Farmers and fish would also get more.And it would allow the installation of a hydroelectric turbine on BowmanDam.

Those things are all fairly straightforward in the bill. Butwhen it comes to other details, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River,pointed out some important issues to us that need to be clarified.

The bill’s purpose is twofold.

First,it fixes what is considered a mistaken boundary line. Bowman Dam — anearthen, man-made dam — was included in 1993 in the Crooked River’s wildand scenic designation. Of course, there’s nothing wild and scenicabout it. What’s important is that with such a designation, no hydrocould be built. The bill moves the boundary.

Second, the billclarifies how water from the Crooked River can be used. It makesavailable more water behind the dam so Prineville can get access to moregroundwater. It has assurances for irrigators.

What’s unclear is what happens to the remaining water in Prineville Reservoir and who decides.

Thebill mentions that the government “shall store in and release fromPrineville Reservoir all remaining stored water quantities for thebenefit of downstream wildlife and fish." Does that mean PrinevilleReservoir could be allowed to mostly dry up?

The Commissioner ofReclamation is also to set the release schedules for water consistentwith the guidance from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and thestate of Oregon. What if the tribes and the state disagree?

Weapplaud the work that Walden, Merkley and Wyden have all put into thisissue. We hope that in the short time remaining, the concerns can beclarified and the bill can be passed.

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