Editorial: Conserving water should be the priority

October 15, 2015
Editorial: Conserving water should be the priority

Never underestimate the ability of government to get its priorities messed up. The latest case in point is the proposed historic designation of a stretch of Central Oregon Irrigation District’s Pilot Butte Canal.

There’s no denying canals and this canal are part of the region’s history. But a designation in the National Register of Historic Places — supported by some property owners along the canal — could limit or exclude the possibility that the stretch of canal could ever be piped to conserve water.

Piping that stretch of canal could conserve about 7.95 cubic feet per second of water. One cubic foot of water is more than 7 gallons of water. What should be government’s priority?

Conserving water.

What was the state’s recommendation about the canal?

Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation submitted the nomination to the federal government.

Gov. Kate Brown’s office has already written a letter to the Department of the Interior and the chief of the National Register of Historic Places. It urged them to give water conservation the priority.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, also told us there have been broader discussions with Gov. Brown. Her office confirmed that a deeper look is being taken into the related issues.

“The Governor’s Office is looking at the interaction between our state land use program and the federal historic registry program carried out by the State Historic Preservation Office,” spokeswoman Melissa Navas wrote in an email. “We’re trying to sort out where changes need to be made so we can balance the values of natural resource conservation and historic preservation where they conflict.”

Here’s what we propose: The State Historic Preservation Office exists to help people find solutions to protect and preserve the state’s past. But those efforts should not undermine the critical priority of conserving water.

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