Our water problems in the West at times seem so large, complicated, and conflicted, that it’s easy to give in to despair. We need victories like this to show us that we can work together to get things done: Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week introduced legislation that improves water management of Bowman Dam and provides more dependable flows for fish and wildlife habitat in the Crooked River, an outstanding redband trout fishery and prime recovery area for steelhead in Central Oregon.
The bill is the result of a collaborative agreement hammered out by river stakeholders, including the Bureau of Reclamation, Warm Springs Tribes, city of Prineville, local irrigators and conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited. TU’s Kate Miller has been working for months to bring Crooked River basin interests together and negotiating for better fish and wildlife benefits in the agreement. She’s pleased with the results, saying the bill “encourages pragmatic, creative solutions and partnerships to restore Crooked River fisheries, including steelhead.” Among other things, the agreement supports year-round flows for fish and wildlife below Bowman Dam, and boosts flows in McKay Creek, an important tributary for steelhead.
What’s remarkable here is how diverse interests worked together to overcome a decades-long stalemate on Bowman Dam water management. They found water solutions that met diverse needs, from fish to farms and municipalities.
Yes, it can happen.
Miller said, “We all have a stake in preserving the health of the Crooked River, which sustains our outstanding outdoor quality of life as well as our local economies. This bill provides a shared vision for getting that done.”
This is yet another example of the kind of collaborative partnerships that TU is pursuing in the West to overcome the old “water is for fighting” mentality and yes, actually get things done. Nice work, Kate. . .