April 04, 2006

Oregon Legislators Introduce Bill to Conserve Water,Better Serve Farmers and Ranchers

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) have introduced legislation to allow the North Unit Irrigation District located in Jefferson County to participate in conservation projects funded by the State of Oregon. Some of the conserved water will be returned to instream flows on the Deschutes River to support fish and wildlife. The district will also have the option of distributing a portion of the conserved water to farmers and ranchers currently served by the Crooked River, reducing irrigation water taken from that river.Water is the backbone of Oregons economy and quality of life, and efforts like these help us to better conserve and protect this critical resource, said Wyden. Boosting local agriculture while protecting the valuable fish and wildlife native to the area would be a huge win for Jefferson County."Farmers, ranchers, and the environment all stand to benefit," Smith said. "A dependable source of water will be made available to grow crops and support livestock while conservation efforts will help return water to the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers, increasing flows for fish and wildlife.""This is a real win-win effort. It's good for the environment and good for 900 family farms and ranches in the area too. In addition to helping the North Unit Irrigation District more efficiently manage water delivery while balancing the needs of fish and wildlife, this legislation would remove barriers that prevent the district from accessing additional resources to help with conservation efforts throughout the region. I'm hopeful that the Senators and I can get this legislation moved through Congress and to the President's desk quickly," said Congressman Walden.The North Unit Irrigation District provides farmers and ranchers in a 50,000 acre area in Jefferson County with irrigation water from the Deschutes River. The legislation would allow farmers and ranchers on 9,000 acres in the district to receive water conserved on the Deschutes River, reducing diversions from the Crooked River. The proposed changes would strictly adhere to existing Oregon law and directly benefit 900 farmers and ranchers in Deschutes County who grow alfalfa hay, grass seed, garlic seed and carrot seed as well as raise cattle, sheep, horses and other livestock.The legislation has the support of the following organizations: Oregon's Water Resources Department, Oregon Farm Bureau, Deschutes River Conservancy, Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Central Oregon Irrigation District, Three Sisters Irrigation District, Swalley Irrigation District, Tumalo Irrigation District, Ochoco Irrigation District, and Oregon Water Resources Congress.