Bill Could Seal Crooked River Water Deal

Bill Could Seal Crooked River Water Deal

OPB News
Aug. 02, 2012

A 40-year-old stalemate over what do with excess water in the Prineville Reservoir might soon be coming to an end. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley says he’ll introduce legislation this week that formalizes an agreement among stakeholders in business, agriculture, conservation and tribal government.

Merkley’s legislation builds on Representative Greg Walden’s bill that passed the House this summer. Walden’s bill would primarily free up water for data center development in Prineville and send more water to irrigators. It also allocated more water for fish, but not enough to satisfy environmentalists.

Merkley’s bill goes further by committing what’s left back into the Crooked River. At the same time, it ensures that irrigators will have the water they need in dry years. Merkley says what made the difference in these negotiations was that all parties had a stake in the plan’s succeeding.

“And it just seemed like this is the moment. Everyone is so close. At some point we’ve got to hold hands and, if you will, jump off the dock together and make this work,” says Merkley. A spokesman for Walden says the Representative is looking forward to reading the bill.