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Implementation of Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy Underway

August 20, 2012

On August 2, 2012, the Oregon Water Resources Commission unanimously adopted the Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS). In an August 14th press release, the Water Resource Department explained that the initial focus for implementation will be on:

(1) improving surface water and groundwater data,

(2) local water planning,

(3) water supply development,

(4) instream protections, and

(5) funding options to help local communities and state agencies meet their water-related responsibilities.

The Executive Branch will bring policy and funding recommendations related to these actions to the Oregon Legislature in 2013. Given obvious budget constraints, OWRD intends to follow a tiered approach in implementing the IWRS. Details of its tiered approach are provided in OWRD’s August 2 staff report and in its draft work plan.

OWRD has already begun to implement some of the IWRS’ Recommended Actions. Tasks scheduled for completion during the Fall of 2012, include updating Oregon’s water-related permitting guide and increasing water use (and energy) efficiency by improving awareness of the Department’s Allocation of Conserved Water program. In addition, six legislative concepts have been forwarded to Legislative Counsel for drafting:

(1) authority to change the name on a water right certificate;

(2) establishment of a water supply development program, whereby the State can purchase stored water, invest in, and develop new water storage projects;

(3) establishment of a water right management fee, which would likely subject water right holders to a $100 annual fee per water right, capped at $1,000 for agricultural users;

(4) remove the sunset provision from the split-season leasing program;

(5) extend the water right transactions fee schedule to avoid roll-back to 2003 fee levels and adjust the current fee schedule; and

(6) enable permits to be split into multiple ownerships to allow owners to certificate their portion of the water right, to facilitate bank loans.

Not until the Governor’s recommended budget is released this December will it become more evident which of the other Recommended Actions will be pursued in 2013.

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