Spring 2013 Newsletter
WaterWatch has been hard at work in 2013! Get the latest on our efforts in the spring edition of our newsletter.
Senate Bills For Oregon Waterways
Expanding Oregon’s State Scenic Waterway Act is one of WaterWatch’s top legislative priorities this year. This Act protects the clean drinking water, wild salmon and steelhead, and scenic beauty that make our state such a special place, but this law currently protects only a tiny fraction of Oregon’s rivers and streams from degradation. SB 401, recently introduced by Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford), would expand these key protections to a small number of some of Oregon’s most beloved – and most threatened – waterways.
Learn more here.
Winter 2012 Newsletter
WaterWatch achieved many truly important victories for Oregon’s rivers in 2012! Read about them in our latest newsletter here.
A Special Destination Fishing Offer
Hey WaterWatch Supporters! Magic Waters Patagonia and Fish Head Expeditions have forged a partnership to offer you a very special opportunity to fish the “magic waters” of Patagonia, Chile while also providing support to WaterWatch of Oregon.
Here’s the deal… book a 10 day, 11 night trip to Magic Waters Patagonia through Jerry Swanson and Fish Head Expeditions for the 2013 or 2014 seasons and 10% of your booking cost will go to WaterWatch as a personal donation from you. You will get a tax deduction for the donated part of the booking cost and the fly fishing trip of a lifetime at Magic Waters in Chilean Patagonia.
Learn more here.
Protecting Salmon and Streams During Climate Change
Following the release of another worrying scientific study on the impacts of climate change in our region, WaterWatch Executive Director John DeVoe discusses the importance of protecting Oregon’s salmon and streamflows with KGW News.
To learn more about WaterWatch’s work to minimize climate change impacts to our rivers, click here.
Return of a Native
They’re back! Check out this video of sockeye salmon spawning in the Metolius River for the first time in 45 years! WaterWatch is proud to have been part to the Pelton Round Butte Hydro Reauthorization Settlement Agreement, which paved the way for this year’s historic achievement on the Metolius. This 2004 settlement provides for reintroduction of salmon and steelhead in the rivers above the Pelton Round Butte Hydro Project, including the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius rivers. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are already seeing the positive results of this agreement’s commitments to river restoration. We can expect more good news to come for the fish, rivers, and people of the Deschutes Basin. In the meantime, we hope the extraordinary resilience of the sockeye salmon will encourage more appreciation and protection for Oregon’s amazing rivers!
To learn more about WaterWatch’s work in the Deschutes, click here.
Conservationists Hail Decision Protecting Iconic Creek
The Oregon Water Resources Department has denied a license for a proposed open pit mine on the Rogue River’s Grave Creek after a coalition of conservation groups, led by WaterWatch, opposed the project. The conservation groups noted that the creek is known habitat for struggling runs of coho salmon, steelhead, and other fish, is already officially designated as water quality impaired, and already suffers from unsustainably low flows in many years. The state found these arguments compelling, and also refuted the mine company’s claim that it could overcome the negative groundwater impacts of digging a massive open pit beside the creek. The department also calculated that the mine would reduce monthly flows in the protected Rogue Scenic Waterway, one of the most famed stretches of whitewater in the country and an economic engine for the region.
WaterWatch commends the Water Resources Department for standing up for one of Oregon’s most special places. The state’s decision is open to appeal by the mining company and we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the protection of one of Oregon’s most prized rivers.
Coalition Celebrates Rogue Valley Water Plan
Check out WaterWatch veteran Bob Hunter outlining the benefits of a landmark Rogue Valley water agreement intended to provide cooler, cleaner water in streams, more reliable water supplies for farmers, and better habitat for salmon and steelhead:
A Big Win on the Crooked River!
Oregon’s river lovers are celebrating a landmark water agreement that provides significant improvements for fish and river habitat in the Crooked River while balancing the water needs of farmers, public utilities, and cities.
On August 3rd, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced a bill in Congress known as the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act (S. 3483). This bill is the result of years of negotiations, spearheaded by Senators Merkley and Wyden, which included conservation groups, the Warm Springs Tribes, the State of Oregon, the City of Prineville, and local irrigation districts.
Among other things, this landmark pact:
- Dedicates roughly 80,000 acre feet of water stored in Prineville Reservoir to downstream fisheries. The water must be released in a way to maximize the biological benefits to downstream fish, including newly reintroduced steelhead. This bill will result in significant flow increases to the historically water-parched Crooked River.
- Provides the City of Prineville with access to 5,100 acre-feet of water to offset the impacts of new groundwater pumping.
- Provides farmers who currently hold irrigation contracts for water from the reservoir with guarantees to their longstanding use.
- Allows hydropower development to now proceed on Bowman Dam.
- Charts a path forward for flow restoration projects on McKay Creek.
- Requires dry year management planning.
The agreement marks the end of nearly 40 years of fighting over the unallocated water behind Bowman Dam. The vision provided by this groundbreaking legislation could not only help save the Crooked River, its prized redband trout, and its newly reintroduced steelhead – it could also make a major contribution to the region’s economy.
We’re very proud to note that WaterWatch was a key player in the complex negotiations behind the Crooked River deal. WaterWatch was instrumental in helping to usher through the conservation measures necessary in the deal to provide adequate flows for Crooked River fish and habitat.
This victory for Crooked River fish and habitat shows the value having a group like WaterWatch, with water experts and experienced advocates dedicated to fighting for Oregon’s rivers.
However, while the introduction of the bill is a significant victory, there is still much work to be done. The bill must make it through Congress and implementation measures must be developed. This is a long-term effort!
To show your support for this important legislation, click here.
Good News for Oregon’s Water Future
After three years of meetings, open houses, advisory group input, and public comments, Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy – a roadmap for the state to meet Oregon’s water needs now and in the future – was officially adopted on August 2nd. This Strategy will be for both instream and out-of-stream uses from surface water and groundwater.
Roughly half the public comments submitted to the Water Resources Department urged the state to adopt a strategy that included strong instream protections. This powerful showing of support for instream measures made clear to the state that Oregonians care about our rivers and streams. Before this effort, Oregon had been one of only two Western states without a comprehensive water plan.
Numerous instream protections have been included in the final Strategy and will have a co-equal priority in the future. A small sampling of what this new water Strategy should mean for Oregon’s rivers includes:
- Adoption of more instream water rights to protect water instream,
- Designation of new scenic waterways across the state,
- Better science to base water decisions upon, and
- Better water management, including increased measurement of water use.
Those who love and enjoy Oregon’s spectacular rivers should expect benefits from these crucial protections for decades to come.
To see the Strategy, click here.
Victory for McKenzie River as Judge Rules Against Water Speculators
On April 27, an Administrative Law Judge proposed that the state deny a water right permit application that would allow a private company to profit through speculation on one of the public’s most valuable resources – water – in one of the state’s most iconic waterways, the McKenzie River.
WaterWatch protested the permit application on March 12, 2010, on grounds that it did not conform to state requirements and that the applicant showed no need for the water.
WaterWatch’s John DeVoe on Keen Hybrid Life Radio Network
On the date of the historic breaching of Condit Dam on Washington’s White Salmon River, WaterWatch teamed up with the Keen Hybrid Life Radio Network to discuss dam removals in the Pacific Northwest, river conservation and water policy. Click play for the whole story.
The Klamath Settlement Agreements
Two negotiated Klamath Basin settlement agreements were publicly released in January, 2010:
1. Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA): regarding basin issues including water allocation and management, restoration and commercial agriculture on the basin’s National Wildlife Refuges
2. Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA): regarding further study of the removal of PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams.
View the agreements (external links)
The agreements result from confidential negotiations originally about relicensing PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams, but which quickly grew to include basin-wide issues unrelated to the dams. WaterWatch was a party to the negotiations until being involuntarily expelled, along with Oregon Wild, for expressing disagreement with the proposed (now final) deal term mandating that parties support [commercial farming on the basin’s National Wildlife Refuges]. Despite stated willingness to continue to negotiate in good faith, WaterWatch was excluded from the talks for failing to support this destructive practice.
In its last months in office, the Bush administration moved to lock in the KBRA by linking it to the KHSA agreement regarding PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams. Full implementation of the agreements will require federal legislation, substantial federal funding (nearly one billion dollars), and other key steps. WaterWatch is continuing to work to address the problems with these agreements.
While WaterWatch fully supports dam removal, WaterWatch does not support the KBRA and does not support linking the KBRA to the KHSA.
Key Problems With The Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA)
1. The KBRA attempts to guarantee water deliveries for the Klamath Project Irrigators but contains no water guarantees or minimum stream flow levels for fish (including three fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act). The KBRA water guarantees for the Klamath Project Irrigators in wet years would deliver more water to the irrigators than they historically used in wet years, and in dry years would deliver more water to the irrigators than allowed under current Endangered Species Act protections for coho salmon;
2. The Klamath River flows which are predicted (by the deal’s proponents) to result from the KBRA would be at levels below those needed for salmon, including the river flow levels currently required under the Biological Opinion for coho salmon and the flows recommended for salmon by the best available science;
3. The Klamath Project Irrigators would receive $92.5 million under the KBRA to develop and implement their own private water plan without public oversight. A significant concern is that much of this money could be used for unsustainable groundwater development;
4. Commercial farming on 22,000 acres of Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges would be supported by all non-federal KBRA parties for 50 years when the practice needs to be phased out;
5. The KBRA’s attempted water allocation to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge may never occur, is insufficient, limits the refuge from otherwise improving its water situation, and puts a heavy burden on the refuge during droughts. Under the KBRA, water deliveries to refuge wetlands would be cut before reducing water deliveries used to irrigate refuge land for commercial farming;
6. The KBRA would eliminate the best tools to secure water for Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge;
7. Klamath Project Irrigators would receive $41 million in power subsidies, plus lower cost BPA power, plus special contracts that allow them to continue to drain important National Wildlife Refuge lands for commercial agriculture; and
8. The KBRA’s price tag is over a $1 billion, yet it fails to address key problems in the basin and none of this money is for dam removal.
Key Improvements Needed In The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA)
Though the KHSA could lead to dam removal, it is not an agreement to remove any dams, but to study whether or not any of the dams should be removed. The KHSA should be modified to address the following problems:
1. Dam removal is unnecessarily linked to the KBRA and if KBRA legislation does not pass, dam removal would be derailed;
2. There is no agreement to remove dams, only to go through a new process to determine whether dams should be removed or not;
3. No dam removal would occur before 2020, while PacifiCorp would be allowed to continue operations that degrade water quality and harm salmon, including Endangered Species Act listed coho with minimal operational changes in the interim;
4. There are a large number preconditions that provide PacifiCorp with many opportunities to abandon dam removal; and
5. There is no definite date to return to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dam relicensing process if dams are not being removed.
For more information on the proposed Klamath deal, please check out the following WaterWatch analyses:
The Essential Elements for Klamath River Basin Restoration (KBRA) are:
1. Removal of the lower four Klamath River dams owned by PacifiCorp;
2. Assured minimum river flows or minimum quantities of water for fish based on the best available science;
3. Funding to implement a willing seller buyout program developed by Federal agencies subject to a transparent public review process to permanently reduce irrigation water demand to a level that will bring it back into balance with what is sustainable for healthy ecosystems;
4. Phasing out the commercial farming program on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges (See WaterWatch Action Alert on Comprehensive Conservation Plan Process for these refuges and WaterWatch’s backgrounder on the CCP process); and
5. Funding for needed Klamath Basin restoration work.