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Attention Given to Oregon’s Water Resources and Water Quality in Governor’s Budget and Proposed Legislation

March 18, 2013

The Governor’s Balanced Budget for 2013-2015 allocates more than $30 million for implementation of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS), described in previous posts on this site and on the Water Resources Department’s (WRD’s) website. This funding will go toward the first phase, which is intended to yield both rural economic development and conservation benefits. Some of these proposals are also evident in currently proposed legislation.

The Governor’s water resources funding addresses: (a) water resources management and (b) water resources development. Water resources management includes improved reporting and oversight of water use to protect existing rights and to facilitate voluntary water transactions. Another management goal is to better understand in-stream flow needs and move towards meeting those needs. Water resources development is characterized as water supply development, watershed restoration efforts, and water conservation projects.

Development projects are likely to include among other things, multi-purpose storage projects, both above and below ground.  The budget assumes water resources development efforts will incorporate both private and public funding.

The budget sets forth a number of proposed investments associated with water resources management and development. Under water resources management, funds are proposed for:

  • groundwater investigations;
  • water-use measurement and reporting;
  • investigation and development of instream resources (review of instream applications, studies to identify fish streamflow needs, and invasive species control);
  • re-building field capacity (including watermasters in Wallowa County and the Klamath Basin and a water right management fee to fund field and scientific expertise);
  • a voluntary program to update water right certificates; and
  • extending the water right transaction fee schedule.

Proposed investments in water resources development include:

  • establishing a water supply development program to finance multi-purpose water projects and hiring a water supply development specialist to address policy and technical issues related to the availability of water for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers;
  • re-capitalizing the water development loan fund for the Umatilla Project in the Columbia River Basin; and
  • re-capitalizing the grant program for water conservation, storage, and reuse proposals.

These proposed investments allocate $6,486,019 for water resources management and $23,748,565 for water resources development.

Additionally, the Governor’s Balanced Budget allocates over five million dollars to address water quality issues. Proposed water quality investments include water quality monitoring efforts such as collecting and assessing data on aquatic biological communities, evaluating protection standards for headwaters, tracking changes in riparian conditions, and funding additional ambient water quality monitoring. Additional investments would target water quality management. Water quality management investments include efforts targeted at pesticide use and compliance monitoring, restoring positions associated with wastewater permitting and TMDLs, and providing technical assistance for local water resource projects and implementation of the IWRS.

Several bills related to water resources and water quality have been introduced this session; however, it is too early to know how they will evolve and in what form, if any, they will be enacted. These bills would:

(1) direct WRD to establish a program to facilitate transfers of water rights between properties accessing the same water source;

(2) eliminate the requirement that certain water development projects receiving funds from WRD reserve water for in-stream flows;

(3) direct WRD to establish a water banking program;

(4) determine a set percentage of WRD operating costs attributable to the in-stream water rights program; and

(5) prohibit any water quality rule or order that imposes requirements, standards or other limitations that exceed those imposed under federal law.

Our office will continue to track water-related bills as the legislative session proceeds.

If you have any questions, please contact me at KMoore@dunncarney.com.

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