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Jefferson County provides $25,000 to NUID for strategy and lobbying efforts

 - Aubrey Bettencourt, with microphone, speaks to an audience of more than 500 farmers at an Aug. 17 meeting about irrigation issues in the Deschutes Basin. Bettencourt formerly worked for the U.S. Interior Department. NUID has hired her for a work session to strategize on future projects in the district.

Directors of the North Unit Irrigation District have hired Aubrey Bettencourt to strategize getting funds for future projects in the district. She will meet Monday, Oct. 18 in a focused work session with members of the NUID Board and some from the broader farming community.

Bettencourt formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"I think she's got the right connections in D.C. to get the Lake Billy Chinook project up and going," says JoHanna Symons of the Symons Beef Company.

Last August, under the auspices of her nonprofit Perfect Balance USA, Symons brought Bettencourt and three other experts to Central Oregon to address a gathering of more than 500 farmers about the irrigation issues in the Deschutes Basin.

"We're trying to find somebody that both Perfect Balance and the district thinks can help," says Mike Britton, NUID executive manager. "Whether it's with the strategic plan or whether it's with relationships between partners. That's really what we think she can bring to the table."

The North Unit faces a huge ask.

The district wants to build a pumping station in Lake Billy Chinook to make up for water it releases from the Wickiup Reservoir to protect wildlife habitat.

Price tag: $400 million.

Farmers in Jefferson County are asking the federal government to foot the bill.

Britton hopes Bettencourt can unite groups at odds over whether the unit should release water for spotted frog and bull trout habitat.

"Our Oregon delegation has made it clear we all need to be rowing in the same direction or they won't go out of their way to help us," says Britton.

At their Aug. 6 meeting, Jefferson County Commissioners targeted $25,000 toward NUID's efforts to gain funding.

The district hired The Ferguson Group as its lobbying partner in Washington, D.C.

The Oct. 18 meeting will establish how Bettencourt fits into the overall process.

"She works at lightning speed in everything she does and that's what we need right now," says Symons. "I foresee a lot of good coming from this."

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