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Many oppose 2005 version of biennial bill over who
MITCH LIES Oregon Staff Writer
– The chairman of the House Water Committee may
have set the tenor of this session’s debate over
how much control an irrigation district wields
over a patron’s water rights in a statement he
made during a hearing Feb. 16.
Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, said that before he
supports efforts to move a bill clarifying the
state’s position, he’s looking for opposing sides
to agree on whether a senior water right holder
outside a district gets first crack at a district
patron’s voluntarily canceled right.
“In the chair’s mind, that’s an issue that needs
to be resolved before the chair can get very
enthusiastic about this bill,” Jenson said.
Under House Bill 2172, an irrigation district
would have first crack at moving the water to
another patron in the district if a patron
voluntarily cancels a water right. Only if no
district members wanted the water would it become
available for a user outside the district.
On Feb. 16, several testifiers opposed the 2005
version of a bill that water rights advocates
biennially introduce in an attempt to clarify how
much control a district has over its patrons’
WaterWatch, a Portland-based water conservation
advocacy group, wants a water right that is
voluntarily canceled put back in-stream for
Water For Life, meanwhile, wants a water right
voluntarily canceled to go to the next senior user
– whether the user be inside or outside a
The Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Cattlemen’s
Association also opposed the current draft of the
bill in the bill’s first hearing. Representatives,
however, said they are hoping to resolve their
disputes with the bill in upcoming discussions
with the Oregon Water Resources Congress.
The Oregon Water Resources Congress, which was the
only group supporting the bill, represents
irrigation districts. The congress is concerned
that districts will lose their ability to function
if a patron’s water rights can be transferred
outside the district when a patron seeks to
voluntarily cancel a right.
“HB2172 provides a means by which such a water
right remains in the district and is used for
irrigation instead of losing the water right to
agricultural use,” testified Anita Winkler,
executive director of the congress.
Loss of a water right to a district reduces
revenue generated from fees and inhibits a
district’s ability to deliver water to users at
the end of a ditch, Winkler said.
Winkler said at the hearing she was surprised to
find that the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon
Cattlemen’s Association were opposed to HB2172.
The two groups were part of a task force that
sought during the interim between legislative
sessions to iron out issues surrounding the bill.
Katie Fast, a government affairs director for the
bureau, said, however, that the bureau’s members
weren’t comfortable with some provisions of
HB2172. Fast added that the bill is not a high
priority for the bureau.
The issue was addressed in House Bill 3298 last
session. That bill cleared the House floor, but
stalled in the Senate Water and Land Use
Mitch Lies is based in Salem. His e-mail address
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Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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