Letter to the Editor: Water belongs to Oregonians

April 12, 2019
Letter to the Editor: Water belongs to Oregonians

Recently The Bulletin endorsed using $48 million of taxpayer funds to pipe the Arnold Irrigation ditches, which the newspaper characterized as a “win” for all concerned.

However, the question that is not being asked is why tax dollars should be used to enhance the bottom line of a private irrigation district and the agricultural irrigators it serves?

It is especially ironic that the public is being asked to fund such projects when irrigators are already subsidized in numerous other ways by the public.

All water in Oregon belongs to the state’s citizens and is to be protected as a public trust by the state.

What is particularly galling is that irrigators remove our water and do not pay a penny for that water.

According to the Oregon Supreme Court, “All water within the state from all sources of water supply belongs to the public.”

The courts have further stated that any instream water right — e.g. irrigators’ removal of water — shall not diminish the public’s rights in the ownership and control of the waters of this state or the public trust therein.”

Finally, the courts have determined that any removal of water must be secondary to protecting the public’s interest in its water, including protecting public resources.

The removal of water from the Deschutes River clearly damages the public’s wildlife, fisheries and recreation. These ecological “costs” are in effect yet another subsidy to irrigators.

George Wuerthner

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An aerial view of a body of water.