Winter 2012 Newsletter

WaterWatch achieved many truly important victories for Oregon’s rivers in 2012! Read about them in our latest newsletter 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.

Read the decision here. Learn more about WaterWatch’s work to protect and restore the Rogue River here.

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.

Read our press release here, the proposed order here, and the Eugene Register-Guard‘s editorial hailing the decision here.

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.

John DeVoe on Keen HybridLife Radio show

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