Bowman Dam House bill now awaits action in Senate


U.S. Representative Greg Walden came to Prineville to discuss the bill, which now awaits action in the Senate

by: LON AUSTIN - Representative Greg Walden shows where the current Crooked River Wild and Scenic boundary is located on top of Bowman Dam.

Following another unanimous House vote in favor of his Bowman Dam bill, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden held a local press conference to discuss the legislation.

Toward the beginning of conference, held at Prineville City Hall on Tuesday, Walden noted that about 500 days had passed since the House passed the bill the first time. The Senate never acted on the bill, and instead, Oregon’s Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden co-sponsored their own bill that failed to pass before the end of 2012.

Walden's bill is intended to help the Crook County area in a variety of ways. It moves Crooked River's federal Wild and Scenic boundary off of Bowman Dam and about a quarter-mile downriver, enabling construction of a proposed hydroelectric power plant. Walden, a Republican from Hood River, said the power plant would generate about 50 new jobs.

The legislation also allocates about 5,100 acre-feet of Prineville Reservoir water to the City of Prineville that they will use as mitigation credits for pumping more ground water. Walden noted that this would enable Prineville to supply water to about 500 more homes.

He went on to say that the bill provides farmers certainty that they can meet their irrigation needs.

“That has been one of the cornerstones for me in this discussion is to make sure that we don’t create another mini-Klamath water set of issues with this (Deschutes River) Basin.”

Crook County Judge Mike McCabe and Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe each lauded the legislation and the work that Walden has put in to pass it a second time.

“It is just so good for the community, the city, and economic growth,” McCabe said. “I hope that you will be able to convince those senators to get on board with this and get it done.”

Roppe called the legislation a “balanced, responsible bill.”

“It would provide our city with a reliable water supply,” she added.

Although the House bill failed to move in the Senate last year, and the new one is essentially a carbon copy, Walden is hoping for a different outcome this time. As far as he is concerned, it makes more sense to move his bill through the Senate and amend it if necessary — not start over with a new Senate bill.

“I’m more than happy to try and figure out if there are some issues that remain and how we can work them out,” he said.

At the same time, Walden does not support the idea of allocating the remaining water in Prineville Reservoir because he feels it sets a new precedent in the way federal government manages surplus water behind federal projects.

One of the primary concerns about Merkley’s Bowman bill was it allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to drain Prineville Reservoir to satisfy fish habitat needs.

“I would hope we wouldn’t fall victim to those who think we have got to do everything in this bill,” Walden said.

Now the Senate will determine the fate of the bill, and Walden is urging the Senate to act on it soon.

“What are we waiting for?”