FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Walden's H.R. 2060 Passes the House; Work Continues in Senate for Crooked River Solutions
BEND — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today that, while helpful in some instances, serves as an incomplete solution to water management in the Crooked River drainage.
The bill—HR 2060—focuses on water management at Prineville Reservoir on the Crooked River. The bill provides the city of Prineville with water; moves the Crooked's Wild and Scenic River boundary to make room for potential hydropower development; and allows for irrigation contract modification to improve flows on McKay Creek and to support voluntary participation in conservation programs like temporary in-stream leases.
While Trout Unlimited supports many of the elements of this legislation, the bill fails to allow the use of water currently not under contract for downstream purposes. In other words, said Kate Miller, TU's western energy and water counsel, despite several positive elements, the bill ultimately fails to adequately account for downstream fishery needs in the overall equation.
"With nearly 80,000 acre-feet of unallocated water behind Bowman Dam, we have the chance to support sportsmen and women who value the river's fish and game assets farther downstream while continuing to meet existing irrigation demand and simultaneously providing mitigation water for Prineville," Miller said. "With some simple improvements, this bill could address a long-term problem — allowing use of project water for fish and wildlife—and sporting opportunity—without compromising existing uses.
"With some changes," Miller continued, "the bill could benefit more people, including sportsmen, in addition to irrigators and Prineville water users. As it's written, it's a missed opportunity."
Improvements to the bill should include, at a minimum:
- Provisions supporting the use of project water for downstream fish and wildlife to sustain the existing sport fishery for native redband trout and support the restoration of salmon and steelhead.
- Provisions supporting drought-year management that would bring parties together in water-short years to collaboratively balance water use among numerous interests.
These provisions would help reduce future conflict by establishing a clear path forward for all parties to work together to meet multiple objectives through voluntary measures, potential incentives, and shared-solutions.
The final product, Miller said, needs to be more comprehensive.
"We look forward to working with Rep. Walden and Sens. Merkley and Wyden to improve this bill and make it work for everyone involved," Miller said.
Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with more than 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. Follow TU on the TU blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter via @TroutUnlimited.