Letter: Legislature should review water laws

Apr 22, 2018

Bend Bulletin

Letter: Legislature should review water laws George Wuerthner in his recent guest column poses a philosophical question: Why should anyone have the “right” to damage and impoverish public waterways for their personal profit? He states that the Deschutes Basin Study is refusing to ask that question.

Wuerthner lays this question on the wrong party. This is not a question for the Basin Study to address; rather it is a question for the Oregon Legislature. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to find a state legislator who is willing to discuss, much less raise, this question in the appropriate arena.

Wuerthner is correct that our laws on water rights are antiquated. They reflect a time when Oregonians placed a priority on production of food and fiber. This priority has changed with our increasingly globalized economy and shift from family to corporate farms, but our water laws remain unchanged from the early days of the last century and the impoverishment of our rivers continues to this day with the Deschutes River being a prime example.

What we desperately need is a review of our water laws and, specifically, updated legislation to better reflect society’s views, including today’s concern for the health of our rivers.

This legislation should revise our rules for allocation of surface water and better define the concept of beneficial use. Using endangered species, such as the spotted frog, to reallocate water is a backwards way to do this, but maybe the spotted frog has more guts than our legislators.

Herb Blank

Bend

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