Water reallocation in Willamette Valley–Important

Corps Considering Willamette Reservoir Reallocation March 15th & 16th!
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Oregon Farm Bureau advocacy@oregonfb.org via votervoice.net

4:21 PM (4 hours ago)

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Informational Update

The State of Oregon and the Corps are considering a potential reallocation of stored water that is currently designated for agricultural use in the Willamette Valley. They will be holding informational sessions to answer questions and take comments on the potential reallocation of water in the basin.

The sessions will be held Tuesday, March 15 at Pringle Community Hall, 606 Church St. SE, Salem, and Wednesday, March 16 at the City Hall/Library meeting room, 225 5th St., Springfield. You may attend either session anytime between 3 and 5 p.m. or 6 and 8 p.m. It is important that the Corps hear from you directly on agricultural needs for a long-term, reliable supply of water in the Willamette Valley.

Background

There are 13 dams run by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers that ring the west side and southern end of the Willamette Valley. The dams are designed to store roughly 1.6 million acre feet of water, which is authorized for a variety of purposes including flood control, agricultural irrigation, water supply, recreation, hydropower generation and reduction of stream pollution. The Water Resources Development Act of 1990 also added environmental protection as a primary purpose for all Corps water resources projects. When the reservoir system was constructed, the Bureau of Reclamation applied for water rights to the reservoir and anticipated constructing a distribution system to deliver water to farmers, but that was never built. As a result, much of the water held by the Bureau of Reclamation was never contracted for by farmers. Currently, only about 80,000 acre feet of the 1.6 million acre feet of water is under contract. A current biological opinion also requires another 500,000 acre feet of water be dedicated to fisheries.

Willamette Valley farmers and ranchers are still able to access and apply for a contract for water from the reservoir system, and the water is still held by Reclamation for agricultural use. However, other water users and environmental interests have requested additional water sources in the Willamette Valley. As a result, the Oregon Water Resources Department and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers began work in the 1990s to possibly “reauthorize” the use of that stored water to include other uses. We know that environmental groups will seek additional instream water through the reauthorization process, and will show up at the scoping meetings to advocate for significant additional water to be placed instream. The reauthorization for these other uses would reduce the amount of stored water that will be available for irrigated agriculture.

Next Steps in the Reallocation

The Oregon Farm Bureau and other agricultural interests have been working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Water Resources Department to develop an estimate of future agricultural demand in the Willamette Valley. The modeling and work on these estimates has been done by both Departments. Oregon Farm Bureau and other stakeholders have been engaging with the Departments to ensure that the modeling work is accurate and reflects the anticipated future needs of the Valley. After needs are identified, we can work on securing funding and other support to help develop infrastructure to meet those needs.

The modeling work and other information will be used by the Corps to estimate future agricultural demand in the Willamette system, and figure out what agriculture’s “allocation” of water for future needs should be. The Corps is currently working on a feasibility study to help them evaluate the future needs of the basin.

This is where you come in! It is important that the State and the Army Corps of Engineers hear directly from Willamette Valley farmers regarding current and future needs for agriculture in the Willamette Valley. We know that the environmental community will be present to advocate for additional water instream, so we need to make sure agricultural voices are heard. Please attend one of the two community meetings and let them know about your current and future irrigation needs.

Please contact Mary Anne Nash at Maryanne@oregonfb.org or 541-740-4062 with any questions.

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