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Farmers flood Capitol to oppose water metering

Mitch Lies, Capital Press 2/22/07

SALEM - Farmers and ranchers from across Oregon flooded a hearing room Wednesday to oppose a bill requiring them to measure their water use.

The farmers said House Bill 2564 is unnecessary, costly and would provide the state little, if any, benefit.

"This bill is a costly solution in search of a problem," said Glenn Barrett, president of Water for Life and a rancher in Bonanza, Ore.

"There is little need for House Bill 2564 and less benefit, but the cost will be enormous," testified Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls.

Barrett said it would cost him $284,000 to install water metering devices and the supporting electrical requirements that would enable him to measure water use on the 500 acres he irrigates.

Mac Kerns, an Eastern Oregon rancher who testified over the phone, estimated installing measuring devices on the 4,600 points of diversion in Baker County would cost nearly $7 million, costing the county more than $1.3 million in tax revenue.

In addition, he said, it would cost the state upwards of $200,000 annually to collect data just from Baker County.

He said, water masters already have the authority to require users to measure their water use.

Under state law, the state can require water users to measure use, but it typically does so only in cases where water supply is limited, according to testimony from the Oregon Water Resources Department.

Currently the state measures about 46 percent of the water used in Oregon, according to the department's testimony.

Following the two-hour hearing, Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee and sponsor of HB2564, appointed Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, to head a work group to look into the proposal.

The work group will present options to the committee in a future meeting, Dingfelder said.

It was apparent at the meeting, nothing short of abandoning the idea would appease the dozens of farmers and ranchers in Salem Wednesday.

Read more on this story in the March 2 edition of Capital Press.

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