Editorial: Deschutes Basin Needs Help from Oregon's Delegation

April 3, 2016
Editorial: Deschutes Basin Needs Help from Oregon's Delegation

Oregon’s Congressional delegation needs to figure out what the federal government can do to protect frogs, farmers, the fish and all the rest of us in the Deschutes River Basin from the repercussions of the lawsuit over the Oregon Spotted Frog.

Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, say they are working on it. When U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said she did not think an all-or-nothing lawsuit was best for the Oregon Spotted Frog and the Deschutes River Basin, the concerns and uncertainty did not melt away.

Flows in the Upper Deschutes River still need improvement. The Oregon Spotted Frog is still threatened. Environmental groups are still suing. Farmers still need their water.

One way to unlock this problem is money. Federal money. This is a national issue of balancing concern for the environment, federal law, water supply and the economic livelihood of a community. So where’s the federal help?

Wyden’s office sent us a statement saying he is working with the irrigation districts to find “what solutions could work and which strategies make the most sense.”

We were able to speak with Merkley’s staff and Walden. Both Merkley’s staff and Walden ticked off a list of programs from the alphabet soup of federal agencies to develop plans and fund projects. Merkley’s position on the Senate Appropriations Committee also gives him leverage when it comes to finding federal money.

Walden added he hopes to be able to help farms move away from flood irrigation when possible and on to more efficient methods. He is also concerned that any “solution” should not be limited to what’s good for the frog. It should be analyzed to ensure it is also good for the other wildlife in the river, the farmers and the rest of Central Oregon.

That’s a good start. The Oregon delegation needs to make federal help happen.

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An aerial view of a body of water.