Member Update December 2008

Member Update December 2008

1. Stream of Consciousness
2. Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Want a Dam – WaterWatch’s Free the Rogue Campaign
3. Bush Administration Releases Faulty Klamath Deal Before Leaving Office
4. Pipe Dreams and Voodoo Economics – Water is Not Oregon’s Oil
5. Groundwater Mitigation in the Deschutes Basin:  Is it failing the Metolius River?
6. Water in the 2009 Oregon Legislature
7. A Celebration of Oregon Rivers
8. The 2008 John Palensky Memorial River Conservation Award – James Ruff Honored
10. Thank You!

Stream of Consciousness

By John DeVoe, Executive Director

The other day I noticed a small entry on the white board calendar at the WaterWatch office. It said “KJP, 15 years at WaterWatch.” At first, the calendar entry didn’t register, but upon reflection, I began to recognize the enormity of that brief message. WaterWatch Assistant Director Kimberley Priestley recently celebrated her 15-year anniversary with WaterWatch. Her dedicated service to river conservation, the streamflow needs of fish and recreation, balanced water policy and healthy rivers spans three governors, three directors at the Water Resources Department, a slew of Water Resources Commissioners, eight legislative sessions, hundreds of water related bills, seventy plus meetings of the Water Resources Commission and more than twenty rule making proceedings. Kimberley was there for all of it, providing a persuasive voice for streamflows and conservation values at the negotiating table and in the deliberations that affect the public’s waters in Oregon. Kimberley’s experience is, frankly, unmatched.

Kimberley’s dedication and tenacity is emblematic of one of WaterWatch’s greatest strengths—the deep experience of its staff.  In a field where turnover can be high, WaterWatch is unusual. Our policy experts have dedicated many years, and in two cases, decades, to fulfilling the organization’s mission. This commitment and determination has produced dozens of landmark conservation victories for rivers and fish that span our 24 year history — from drafting and passing the Oregon Instream Water Rights Act in 1987 that today protects streamflows on approximately 1400 stream reaches across Oregon to the Free the Rogue Campaign that removed two Rogue Basin dams in 2008 and is scheduled to remove Savage Rapids Dam from the Rogue River in 2009. The Free the Rogue Campaign is one of the most significant river restoration campaigns in the nation.

WaterWatch’s experience also provides unique insights into current discussions over water, climate change and river conservation. Because we’ve been there, our institutional knowledge is unparalleled in the field. In many cases, WaterWatch sparked the evolution of the debate over water. We have witnessed the increasing sophistication of the players, the complexity of the positions and the changing nature of the premises of the discussion. Today, thanks in no small part to WaterWatch’s work across Oregon, the debate often revolves around how to meet the needs of rivers and fish rather than questioning why those needs should matter.

Please join me on Kimberley’s fifteenth anniversary at WaterWatch to applaud Kimberley and the experience, tenacity and dedication of the WaterWatch staff to healthy rivers and streamflows. Our combined experience is an organizational asset that is vital in a field where the issues are complicated, results often take years, and it is absolutely critical to know the places and the players. Oregon’s world-class rivers – from the John Day, the Deschutes, and the Malheur to the Umatilla, the Walla Walla, the Klamath and beyond – are better off today because of WaterWatch’s expertise and dedication. With your continued support, WaterWatch can continue to provide the unmatched advocacy for healthy rivers, balanced water policies and the streamflows that Oregon’s waterways deserve. From all of us at WaterWatch, enjoy the holiday season and thank you for your support!

Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Want a Dam – WaterWatch’s Free the Rogue Campaign:

Removal of Gold Hill Diversion Dam and Notching of Elk Creek Dam Complete

Summer 2008 was a time for celebration for the Rogue River.  In July, the Gold Hill Diversion Dam was removed and the notorious Elk Creek Dam was notched in a series of spectacular explosions to allow fish passage and to return the stream to its original gradient and alignment.

Gold Hill Diversion Dam – the second biggest barrier to salmon and steelhead migration on the Rogue River mainstem after Savage Rapids Dam – was removed in July. This dam became obsolete when the City of Gold Hill installed a pumping facility.  Removal culminated many years of hard work and coordination by WaterWatch, the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, the City of Gold Hill, federal and state fishery agencies and other stakeholders.

The Elk Creek Dam, on a Rogue River tributary, sat partially constructed and serving no useful purpose for decades.  The dam blocked Elk Creek and its inadequate fish passage facilities caused major problems for salmon and steelhead.  Historically, an estimated 30% of Rogue Basin coho salmon spawned in Elk Creek. After decades of hard work, WaterWatch, Oregon Wild and their partners celebrated the deconstruction and notching of Elk Creek Dam.  Watch video of the blast to notch the Elk Creek Dam. 

In 2008, WaterWatch’s Free the Rogue Campaign produced two important victories with the removal of the Gold Hill Diversion Dam and the notching of Elk Creek Dam. In 2009, the Campaign will remove Savage Rapids Dam and advance the removal of Gold Ray Dam. Once completed, these projects will free the lower 157 miles of the Rogue River for salmon, steelhead and recreation.

For photos and video, please visit our home page.

Bush Administration Releases Faulty Klamath Deal Before Leaving Office

With little more than two months left in office, the Bush administration pushed through a faulty Agreement in Principle (AIP) regarding PacifiCorp’s Klamath River Dams.  The AIP, signed by Interior Secretary Kempthorne, Gov. Kulongoski, Gov. Schwarzenegger, and Greg Abel, Chairman and CEO of PacifiCorp, is spring-loaded to fail.  Its multiple shortcomings include: many off-ramps that make actual dam removal less likely; suspension of state Clean Water Act reviews of the dams; a counterproductive ratepayer provision that could direct dam removal funds towards dam upgrades, allowing the dams to remain in place; an unhelpful cost-benefit standard for determining whether the dams should be removed; and, perhaps most importantly, direct linkage to the earlier Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). The KBRA is a Faustian bargain that trades streamflows, fish protections and responsible National Wildlife Refuge management to interests friendly to the outgoing administration.

With President-elect Barack Obama set to take over the White House soon, the AIP deal represents an effort by the outgoing Bush administration to lock in political favors for powerful Klamath Basin agribusiness interests.  Damaging provisions of the deal include guaranteed water deliveries to agriculture with a corresponding lack of guaranteed flows for fish; projections of flows that are lower than those scientifically determined to be necessary for the survival of threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River; and terms to lock in large scale commercial agriculture on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges for the next 50 years.

The AIP requires passage of both state and federal legislation, including legislation to lock in the damaging provisions of the KBRA.  WaterWatch will continue to work with our allies to ensure that any deal that moves forward protects fish, adequate river flows, and the Klamath Basin’s National Wildlife Refuges, and is actually capable of achieving removal of PacifiCorp’s dams.

Pipe Dreams and Voodoo Economics – Water is Not Oregon’s Oil

Some in Oregon have suggested that water is Oregon’s oil and that the state should investigate selling water to thirsty states in the southwest. In fact, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing early in the 2009 legislative session to discuss this idea. Can you say pipe dream?

The proposals to date have centered on diverting water from the Columbia River and pumping that water to augment the Colorado River. Putting aside for the moment the likely greenhouse gas emissions associated with pumping large amounts of water over long distances and the faulty premises that the Columbia has water to spare and that the project could be done without harming the river or salmon, consider the proposal’s costs.

The proponents have suggested Oregon could reap 3-4 billion dollars assuming a penny per gallon profit for 1,000,000 acre feet of water delivered. What the boosters are less willing to discuss is that building such a pipeline would cost upwards of 30 billion dollars and operating it would cost more than one billion dollars each year for electrical energy alone. The Governor’s entire proposed general fund budget for the 2009-11 biennium is only 15.8 billion dollars. A pipeline to the Colorado would deliver water at a cost of more than $3000 per acre-foot, two or three times the cost of desalted seawater and 10 to 20 times the cost of urban and agricultural water conservation. Green infrastructure? Not this boondoggle.

Oregon deserves responsible water policy and revenue sources that do not treat our public resources as assets to be liquidated or that rely on fantastic subsidies from the taxpayer. Even in an era of truly gigantic public bailouts and subsidies, this pipe dream just does not pencil out.

Groundwater Mitigation in the Deschutes Basin:  Is it failing the Metolius River?

The Metolius River, one of the purest and coldest rivers in Oregon, erupts from springs near Camp Sherman and carves a path through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the West.   Unlike many rivers in Central Oregon, the Metolius River faired relatively well during the irrigation boom of the 19th and 20th centuries.  However, the 21st century is bringing modern threats to the river in the form of destination resorts that could deplete the spring waters that supply the Metolius.

Under Oregon’s Scenic Waterway Act, new groundwater withdrawals in the Deschutes Basin must mitigate for impacts on protected streamflows, including those in the Metolius. The rules that govern the mitigation program require, among other things, that mitigation be provided within the “zone of impact”.  In other words, if the groundwater use will impact Metolius flows then mitigation must be provided in the Metolius “zone” not, for example, on some section of the Deschutes mainstem. However, in a recent letter to Governor Kulongoski, the Director of the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD) stated that the WRD only requires mitigation in the “primary” zone of impact rather than in all zones impacted by any given groundwater use.  This means that if the impact from any one well would be roughly a 60% impact on the Deschutes and a 40% impact on the Metolius, the WRD will not require any mitigation on the Metolius. The interpretation will allow proposed destination resorts in the Metolius to deplete this fantastic river.

Obviously, this is troubling for the long-term health of the Metolius. With two destination resort applications for the Metolius sub-basin in the hopper, this issue will likely come to a head soon.

Water in the 2009 Oregon Legislature

Water will likely be a central issue in the 2009 legislative session.  2009 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Oregon Water Code, and the governor has designated water as a legacy issue and has been working with stakeholders to develop some broad water conservation, management and supply proposals.

Legislation may emerge in the form of an omnibus bill that packages a number of water resource issues, or individual bills. WaterWatch’s goal is to enact water management reforms that benefit rivers, implement rational water management actions, address climate change and ensure that Oregon has a water law that can meet the challenges and opportunities for the next one hundred years. WaterWatch is working with the Oregon Conservation Network to pass progressive water policies and defeat legislation that would harm Oregon’s rivers and fish.

While the current budget climate is challenging, WaterWatch will continue to champion needed water policy reform to ensure that our rivers can meet the challenges of climate change and growth and remain healthy for future generations.

A Celebration of Oregon Rivers

The Sixth Annual Dinner & Auction Raises $53,000 for WaterWatch
WaterWatch’s annual dinner and auction was held Saturday, October 25th in Portland with just over 200 people attending.  This was the largest event to date. Thank you to all of the guests, volunteers, donors and sponsors who helped make this event such a success.

Attendees enjoyed live music by the Tabor Jazz Trio and Oregon wines provided by J. Christopher Wines.  Nearly 200 auction items were up for grabs that included guided fishing trips, vacation getaways, framed artwork, tickets to the Oregon Symphony and outdoor gear and fishing necessities.

This year more than 100 businesses, organizations and individuals donated items and services for the event.  If you would like to be an event sponsor or donate an item for next year’s event, please contact us by email at info (at) waterwatch (dot) org or call Stacy Webb at (503) 295-4039 x4.  View a full list of sponsors and donors for this year’s event here.

The 2008 John Palensky Memorial River Conservation Award – James Ruff Honored

The John Palensky Memorial River Conservation Award recognizes individuals for their outstanding conservation efforts to protect the Columbia River and its tributaries.  This year, the award was presented to James Ruff. Jim has worked on Columbia River Basin and salmon issues through his service with federal and state agencies, and as a WaterWatch Board member. Throughout his career, Jim’s guiding principle has been to protect and restore river ecosystems.

Currently Jim is the Manager of Mainstem Passage and River Operations for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, where he is responsible for strategic development and monitoring of Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program measures. Previously, he served as Chief of the Federal Columbia River Power System Branch with National Marine Fisheries Service and as a senior hydrologist for the Northwest Power Planning Council’s Fish and Wildlife Division.  Jim has also worked as a planning engineer with Oregon Water Resources Department.

A charter member of the WaterWatch Board, Jim served from 1985 to 1999, including serving as President his last five years.  Jim’s leadership and passion for WaterWatch helped guide passage of Oregon’s 1987 landmark Instream Water Rights Act and the Conserved Water statute, and helped lay the groundwork for removal of Savage Rapids Dam.

We are proud to present this year’s John Palensky Memorial River Conservation Award in honor of Jim’s dedicated work to protect the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Learn more about the John Palensky Award and fund here.!

Have you signed up to receive WaterWatch of Oregon’s E-Newsletters and RiverAction Alerts?  We recently upgraded our email communications to members.  Now, you can receive our member newsletters, action alerts and event notices via email. This is a much more efficient way to keep you informed regarding important news affecting water issues.  If you haven’t already signed up, it’s very easy.  Just go to and click on “subscribe to our E-Newsletter and RiverAction Network” under Act Now on the left side of the homepage.  You will be helping WaterWatch save money by reducing our paper and postage costs and you’ll be getting WaterWatch information much faster than through the mail.

Thank You!

We would like to thank all of you who continue to support our important mission!  We also would like to thank the many foundations and family funds that have awarded grants to WaterWatch of Oregon in the past year:

Anonymous Foundations (2)
The Boyer Family Foundation
The Brainerd Foundation
The Bullitt Foundation
The Burning Foundation
The Conservation Alliance
Earth Share of Oregon
The Flintridge Foundation
The George Gund Foundation
The Gracie Charitable Foundation
The Harder Foundation
The Hugh & Jane Ferguson Foundation
The Jubitz Family Foundation
The Lazar Foundation
New Belgium Brewing
Norcross Wildlife Foundation
Patagonia, Inc.
The Penney Family Fund

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