Oregon’s economy is more than capable of producing enough prosperity to restore our challenged communities. Our natural resources and expansive agricultural abilities can revive our rural communities, satisfy every need and provide material comfort for Oregon’s population.
Doesn’t that give you hope for small rural towns and population centers alike? Don’t we all want an Oregon that is healthy, economically vibrant and reliably regulated for years to come?
Apparently the state of Oregon and the Water Resources Department (WRD) administrators do not agree with this hopeful view of our future. While I hear from concerned family farmers, ranchers, business owners and families every day, these administrators appear to only have ears for well-funded special interest groups, and as such have introduced a great imbalance in water appropriations for Oregon’s agricultural communities.
For example, the WRD recently verified a Tribal call on priority water and is now regulating and limiting water usage in the flooding river zones of the Wood, Williamson and Sprague River Systems.
WRD also set the rules for regulating these flood flows (Riparian High Flows) and the triggering events which led to this water call. This water call is based solely on administrative actions and is highly subjective. It seems clear that this is the work of special interests and not those interested in prosperity for our communities.
In a 1999, Ninth Circuit appeals case, Klamath Water Users Protective Association v. Northcoast Environmental Center, The Wilderness Society, Waterwatch of Oregon, et. al., the court found that, “a comprehensive water rights adjudication… and questions of relative amounts and priorities, at least within the State of Oregon, will be decided there.”
WRD created an artificial water restraint based on, “Riparian Habitat High (Flood) Flows are triggered by the 1.5-year recurrence interval flow and capped by the 3.4-year recurrence interval flow. If stream flows are at or above the Trigger Flow, stream flows must be maintained up to the Cap Flow.”
I, like the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, believe these judicial review processes and determinations belong to Oregon. Yet, the state has not resolved these issues, instead putting family farms and ranches on the sacrificial altar to the voracious interests of big money players.
This is nothing but unwarranted coercion. Our state’s administrators have become the new ruling class. Only they can exercise the power of the state to secure certain rights and privileges for the chosen few. Oregon appears to be focused on controlling the life of our communities by placing vital economic functions in the hands of a few administrators.
At the beginning of this commentary, I laid out a hopeful view for our beautiful state but we cannot have that kind of hope without a reliable, fair administration of government. The prosperity of our state and the future of our rural communities rely on us to do better. We need to undo capricious and arbitrary rules, so that all water users can seek judicial review and due process for water flow quantities and priorities.
Our state needs the courage to step up and fix failed policies while adopting new strategies to repair this broken system. Although the administrative judgements and rules were developed following the best suggestions and with best of intentions the resulting quagmire is a disaster for Oregon-based local agriculture, rural communities and our overall prosperity.
Remember, if we don’t stand for rural Oregon values and common-sense –
No one will…
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of Wallowa County GOP
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