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Water-use measurement bill clears Senate

Mitch Lies
Oregon Staff Writer 6/13/05 Capital Press

SALEM – The Oregon Senate has passed a water-use measurement bill that appears innocuous on the surface, but detractors fear it could be detrimental to irrigation water rights.

Senate Bill 731 calls for the Oregon Water Resources Department to promote water-use measurement and to report to the Legislature on its progress.

The bill, supporters say, could lead to more efficient water use in the state, resulting in more water left instream for salmon and irrigators.

Detractors said the bill is unneeded and could eventually lead to expensive mandates and changes in water law.

“This could create a huge impact on the agricultural community in our state,” said Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, who later voted for the bill.

Schrader warned his constituents to be careful about voting for seemingly watered-down, innocuous bills.

Sen. Doug Whitsitt, R-Klamath Falls, said the bill could spark efforts to limit water rights to actual use.

He added that the state Water Resources Department already has the authority to measure water diversions if it so chooses.

“This measure has no purpose other than ... to limit water rights to actual use,” he said. “It is a Trojan Horse. The first salvo in our most recent attack on irrigation water rights.”

Whitsitt, along with the 10 other Republicans present on May 26, voted against the bill. All 16 Democrats present voted for it.

The bill encourages the Water Resources Department to enhance water-use measurement by, among other methods, promoting use of a cost-share program in which the state will fund as much as 75 percent of the installation and maintenance costs of a water-measuring device.

The department, however, currently has only $1 in its water measurement cost share fund, said Adam Sussman, a senior policy adviser for the department.

Still, Sussman said, the bill is useful.

“This bill sends an important message to the state and water users that water use measurement is important,” Sussman said.

The bill now goes to the House.

Mitch Lies is based in Salem. His e-mail address is mlies@capitalpress.com.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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