Diverse Coalition Celebrates Landmark Upper Rogue Valley Water Plan

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2012

State Rep. Peter Buckley, 541-488-9180
Bryan Baumgartner, Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, 541-261-2465
Bob Hunter, WaterWatch of Oregon, 541-778-3310
Leigh Johnson, Medford Water Commission, 541-944-2222
Steve Mason, WISE Project Coordinator, 541-951-0854

Diverse Coalition Celebrates Landmark Upper Rogue Valley Water Plan
Rep. Buckley presides over ceremony kicking off comprehensive local water infrastructure improvement agreement

Medford, Oregon – Today, a diverse group of Rogue Valley farmers and ranchers, municipal water users, conservationists, and local government representatives joined State Rep. Peter Buckley to celebrate the ratification of a plan to implement the Water for Irrigation Streams and Economy (WISE) project, a long-term, comprehensive water infrastructure improvement effort for the upper Rogue River Valley.

“The WISE project is a partnership between water users and stakeholders working proactively to improve water quality and quantity in the Little Butte Creek and Bear Creek watersheds for irrigation, fish, and other uses in an economically and environmentally feasible manner,” said Rep. Buckley. “Families and businesses in the Rogue Valley can expect to see real benefits for their communities as WISE moves forward. I’m proud to be involved in this collaborative process between so many diverse interests in our valley, and thrilled to be here today to celebrate all the hard work that has gone into this agreement.”

Representatives from the City of Medford, Medford Water Commission, Jackson County, Talent Irrigation District, Medford Irrigation District, Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, Oregon Solutions, WaterWatch of Oregon, Rogue Riverkeeper, federal and state agencies, and others joined Rep. Buckley at the ceremony, which was hosted at the Harry & David Corporate Conference and Education Center.

“We really want to thank everyone involved for getting us to this point, especially the folks at Oregon Solutions. Through the Oregon Solutions process, collaboration between the parties involved has resulted in many recommendations, decisions and agreements which make up the implementation plan we are signing today,” said Steve Mason, WISE Project Coordinator.

The WISE Project plan includes much-needed improvements to irrigation water delivery systems for some 35,000 acres of farms within the Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts. The current irrigation system, a mix of locally and federally maintained facilities, is comprised of mostly open canals that flow through six reservoirs: Four Mile Lake, Fish Lake, Howard Prairie Reservoir, Hyatt Reservoir, Agate Reservoir and Emigrant Lake. These canals intersect with Bear Creek, Little Butte Creek, and their tributaries.

“Much of the region’s water system has become outdated, resulting in significant water loss, unreliable irrigation water supplies, and negative impacts to overall water quantity and quality in the area,” said Bob Hunter with WaterWatch of Oregon. “WISE is a responsible, economically viable plan to get cooler, cleaner water in our streams, more reliable water supplies for our farmers, and better habitat for our salmon and steelhead. This is why it has drawn so much local support, as well as the support of leaders like Rep. Buckley and Governor Kitzhaber.”

“We really are grateful for all the support from the local and state level so far,” said Mason. “Now to get all the way to the finish line and get this good work done, we need to look to the folks in Washington D.C. for additional funding.”

Next steps in the process include completion of a Feasibility Study/Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS), to be undertaken by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as required by law. The parties involved will also create a more formal governance structure as they work to implement the plan memorialized today.

WISE sponsors and partners signing the Declaration of Commitment today include the following:

• Convener Representative Peter Buckley
• City of Medford
• Coastal Conservation Association
• Geos Institute
• Governor’s Regional Solutions Center
• Harry & David
• Jackson County
• Jackson County Farm Bureau
• Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District
• Medford Irrigation District
• Medford Water Commission
• Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
• Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
• Oregon Water Resources Commission
• Oregon Water Resources Department
• Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
• Rogue Flyfishers
• Rogue Riverkeeper
• Rogue Valley Council of Governments
• Rogue River Valley Irrigation District
• Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center
• Talent Irrigation District
• US Bureau of Reclamation
• US Fish & Wildlife Service
• US National Marine Fisheries
• WaterWatch of Oregon