2015 Legislative Roundup

2015 Legislative Roundup

With the help of WaterWatch members, the 2015 legislative session ended with critical agency funding intact, the defeat of a slew of bad water bills, and the elevation of a number of important policy issues. We could not have done it without you! Your voices were critical to our success this year. Some of our wins from this session include:

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Budget

The Oregon Department of Fish and Widlife faced an unprecedented $32 million shortfall for the 2015-2017 biennium. With looming cuts to agency fisheries biologists and water program staff who are so important to Oregon’s rivers, WaterWatch members went to bat! Legislators heard loud and clear both in Salem and in town halls around the state that you care about Oregon’s rivers, and the fish and wildlife they support. As a result, both the water program and fisheries biologists survived the cuts.

Cities Must Do Their Fair Share for Fish

Dead fish found in the Clackamas River in July 2015
(Photo: WaterWatch)

WaterWatch successfully defended against multiple legislative attacks on our recent appellate court victories protecting imperiled fish. The League of Oregon Cities and Special Districts Association had gathered support for legislation that would have exempted numerous municipalities from protections for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. After intense negotiations, most parties reached an acceptable compromise. However, some cities balked, demanding a complete rejection of the court’s decision in the Cottage Grove case. This torpedoed the compromise. As a result, the court’s decision remains the law.

Phony Beaver Dam Bill Defeated

This legislation would have created a pilot program in eastern Oregon allowing landowners to build dams exempt from protections for water and fish. With your help, WaterWatch and our allies successfully defeated the bill.

Suction Dredge Mining Moratorium

In 2013, we helped negotiate a bill seeking better management of this harmful practice which imposed a wide-ranging moratorium on suction dredging – if a compromise was not reached by January 2016. Subsequently, an interim Study Group failed to find consensus. In response, the Governor’s office introduced a bill leaving unprotected many threatened streams and waterways of biological significance. WaterWatch and coalition partners were able to make changes in the bill protecting sensitive habitat for steelhead, salmon, bull trout, mollusks, and lamprey. However, the improved bill eventually failed, so a five-year moratorium on suction dredge mining – covering approximately 80% of Oregon’s waterways – will begin in early 2016.