Tumalo Creek Ruling Protects Streams Throughout Oregon

For Immediate Release

May 4, 2015

Kimberley Priestley, 503-295-4039 x3, kjp@waterwatch.org

Tumalo Creek Ruling Protects Streams Throughout Oregon
Water Ski Pond Development Deal Put Streams Statewide at Risk

Last week, the Oregon Department of Water Resources dealt a blow to a scheme to use scarce Tumalo Creek water to create water-skiing ponds for a luxury home development in Central Oregon’s High Desert near Bend. The Department’s denial of a key water transfer application was a victory for those who cherish Oregon’s rivers and streams. Conservation group WaterWatch of Oregon has opposed the proposed ski ponds, alongside concerned area residents and neighbors along the creek.

“Before any new reservoir can be approved or built in Oregon, the law requires important environmental reviews. This developer tried to skirt the law by building a reservoir first, then attempting to swap water rights with Tumalo Irrigation District,” said Kimberley Priestley, Senior Policy Analyst for WaterWatch. “If this scheme were successful, it could set a dangerous precendent for streams around the state. We commend the Department for making the right call.”

WaterWatch argued in opposing comments that while Oregon law allows water transfers to a new use, place of use, or type of use, the law does not allow the building of a new reservoir on the back of an old one. The group also argued that the law requires all new reservoirs to undergo basic environmental review. Approving this transfer could create a dangerous loophole allowing new storage projects to proceed without consideration of impacts to struggling fish populations or the public interest.

Tumalo Creek is overappropriated twelve months of the year, meaning the state has promised more water than normally flows in the creek, and no additional water is available for development. KC Development built the reservoirs and filled them with water before getting state approval.

“In this era of overstretched water resources and growing climate change impacts, it is imperative that all new reservoirs must undergo basic environmental review,” added Priestley. “WaterWatch will continue to work to secure proper environmental review of any new storage projects in Oregon.”