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Draft of state water plan posted

by MITCH LIES, Capital Press June 26, 2012

SALEM -- The Oregon Water Resources Department has unveiled what officials hope is a final draft of the state's first long-range strategy for meeting its water needs.

The department on June 25 posted the draft on its website, www.wrd.state.or.us.

The Legislature in 2009 directed the department to develop the Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy.

The latest version, which is more than two years in the making, is the plan's third iteration. It includes an overview of Oregon's instream and out-of-stream needs, but stops short of ranking the needs, said Brenda Bateman, senior policy coordinator for the department. Nor does the plan identify specific strategies for meeting the needs.

"Our commission asked us to keep the strategy at a very high level -- a blueprint for the types of things that need to be addressed in the future -- without placing a weight on any one of them at this stage," Bateman said.

Bateman said the department in conjunction with the Oregon Water Resources Commission will develop a work plan for meeting needs as it prepares for the 2013 legislative session.

"The initial work plan is going to be dependent on budget allocation, ultimately," Oregon Water Resources Department Director Phil Ward said.

Ward said the department believes it addressed concerns of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and other natural resources organizations in the latest version by emphasizing the value of irrigated agriculture to Oregon's economy and environment. Also, he said, the department highlighted the abundance of water left instream and articulated a need for water storage.

"We've reframed the introduction of the document to talk about the total amount produced and what a small percentage of what is actually diverted that is," Ward said.

Also, he said: "A number of groups wanted to ensure that support for storage is clearly articulated in the document, and we believe it is strongly articulated. So we hope we've gotten to most of those concerns."

Under the current timeline, the Oregon Water Resources Commission is scheduled to consider adopting the plan at its Aug. 2 meeting.

The department is expected to deliver a final plan to the Oregon Legislature by the end of the year.

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