Integrated Water Resource Strategy
Agriculture Talking Points
HB 3369, passed by the 2009 Legislature, mandates the development of a statewide water resources strategy. On some level, practically all agricultural organizations agreed the development of plans to ensure that Oregon’s future water needs are met is a prudent and worthwhile endeavor. However, the provisions of HB 3369 calling for the development of such a strategy are troubling in two material respects.
- The process for developing the strategy directs government officials, rather than the public, to take primary responsibility for developing the strategy that will guide Oregon for years to come.
- In addition, it appears that HB 3369 elevates the role of Oregon’s environmental agencies in establishing the direction of Oregon water policy.
POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS
- There must be a balance between in-stream and out-of-stream uses. HB 3369 does not mirror the language of the conserved water statutes or otherwise rely on existing law to define how new water from storage projects will be protected. Rather, the measure simply indicates that such rights shall be protected absolutely, contravening the In-stream Water Rights Act and doctrine of prior appropriation
- The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation must be preserved
- Oregon’s Water Code does not need overhauled in this process
- Caution in use of the term “net environmental public benefit”. A primary concern with HB 3369 is that it interjects the terms “peak and ecological flows” into Oregon statute. The legislation defines the term “net environmental public benefit” as the improvement of ecological conditions, compared with a pre-project baseline, that relate to one or more conditions
- Acknowledgement of the importance of agriculture to the economy of Oregon
- Respect for culture of agriculture in Oregon’s history and future
- Food security is national security. We cannot become a nation dependent on foreign food.
- Environmental benefit of irrigated agriculture: wetlands, open spaces, habitat protection, forage for wildlife
- Irrigation benefits aquifer recharge and late season stream flows. Studies have shown that irrigation return flows have a direct benefit on late season stream flows and this benefits stream and habitat health.
- In-stream water rights should not supersede other water rights. HB 3369 departs from the In-stream Water Rights Act by legally protecting water in-stream without regard to priority date. Under the In-stream Water Rights Act, in-stream water rights are granted the same characteristics as any other water right, assigned a priority date and otherwise regulated in accordance with the doctrine of prior appropriation.
- Avoid single species management of resources. There are unintended consequences to managing resources to benefit only one species, i.e. fish. Increased in-stream flows may dry up wetlands and decrease habitat for other species.
- Moving water off the land creates other environmental issues: invasive species, noxious weeds and erosion
- Water resources should be managed by one state agency, Oregon Water Resources Department. HB 3369 lacks vision insofar as it directs government officials, rather than the public, to take primary responsibility for developing the water policy that will guide Oregon for years to come. In addition, HB 3369 elevates the role of Oregon’s environmental agencies in establishing the direction of Oregon water policy.
- The Oregon Water Resources Dept has been charged by Oregon law with the sole responsibility to manage Oregon’s water resources. The IWRS appears to reverse this long standing legislation. This action will greatly ham Oregon irrigated agriculture. Water management by committee will be cumbersome at best.
- The vision of the Water Resources Department is to assure sufficient and sustainable water supplies are available to meet current and future needs. This vision is directly from the Oregon Water Resources Department website.
- Oregon water resources are renewable and fairly constant over time within each region of the State. We must have the wisdom and foresight to build storage reservoirs in order to capture seasonal water excesses for use during the summer growing season.
- The IWRS should focus on enhancing future water supply through creating more storage capacity.
- Water Rights are private property rights and any attempt to diminish those rights requires compensation from the State to the landowner.