March 10, 2004

Senate Committee Approves Wallowa Lake Dam Legislation

Bill will provide funds to support rehabilitation of dam, benefit fish and farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource approval of the Wallowa Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act (S. 1355) to provide funding for dam improvements, tribal fish restoration, and for water management in the Wallowa Valley. Currently, the dam cannot be used to full capacity because of its age and condition. Local groups have developed projects with the participation of numerous state and federal agencies and the support of local tribal leaders to rehabilitate the dam, allowing farmers to continue to use their water rights and to improve conditions for fish. Wyden and Smith introduced legislation to help those projects move forward. "The projects authorized by this bill provide a positive approach, supported by local interests, to resolving the challenges facing the Wallowa River Basin," said Smith. "The cooperative efforts of the parties involved are now closer to becoming law." "Providing funds to improve the Wallowa Lake Dam is the right thing to do for the local economy and for the environment," said Wyden. "All parties should be commended for coming together to form a plan that benefits all users of the Wallowa Lake and Wallowa River." The Wallowa Lake Dam provides water for 15,000 irrigated acres of farm land, drinking water for the city of Joseph and stable base flows for the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers, and protects surrounding communities from floods. Additionally, it helps form Wallowa Lake, a famous summer vacation spot with hotels, a state park, tame deer and a tramway that offers spectacular views.