Columbia River-Umatilla Solutions Taskforce announcement

Statement by Kimberley Priestley, WaterWatch of Oregon’s Senior Policy Analyst, on the February 15, 2013 Columbia River-Umatilla Solutions Taskforce (CRUST) announcement:

“Today’s agreement offers a menu of balanced potential solutions that will provide additional water to Umatilla farmers without harming flows needed for struggling salmon and steelhead runs or – importantly – without undermining river protection laws critical for maintaining the immense biological, cultural, and economic value of the Columbia Basin fishery. We hope that this agreement will stand the test of time and the water politics of the Oregon Legislature.

This agreement promotes enonomic growth in the form of increased agriculture, as well as in the form of a healthier Columbia River, which provides jobs, food production, and other economic benefits to Oregon and the entire region.

Over the three decades that we have worked on Umatilla Basin water issues, WaterWatch of Oregon has always believed that a durable solution for the Columbia River, its imperiled fish, and those who wish to expand irrigated agriculture in the Basin requires a more thoughtful approach than repeated attempts to secure legislative allocations of water from the Columbia that would undermine existing streamflow and other fish protections.

In convening the CRUST, Gov. Kitzhaber provided the leadership needed for stakeholders to move forward on a path to explore possible solutions that can work for both farmers and fish. The result is today’s agreement.

From WaterWatch’s perspective the agreement is a meaningful first step in this process.

On behalf of WaterWatch’s board, staff, and thousands of supporters across Oregon I’d like to thank Gov. Kitzhaber, as well as Richard Whitman, Dennis Doherty, and Steve Greenwood for their leadership and efforts in finding a path forward that works for farmers, fish, and the Columbia River.”