Bill would directly benefit jobs, economy, agriculture, conservation in Prineville, Crook County
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed by voice vote Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-Ore.) Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act (H.R. 2060), which delivers needed water to Prineville for job creation, clears the way for clean energy at Bowman Dam, and creates new water conservation opportunities in central Oregon.
“This is a good, commonsense, job-creating bill,” Rep. Walden said. “The plan will create jobs in central Oregon, remove government red tape, protect family farmers, and improve water quality and flows for fish and wildlife, all without costing the federal taxpayer one penny. It is the culmination of years of collaboration between the city of Prineville, Crook County, farmers, the Warm Springs Tribes, and the Deschutes River Conservancy.”
H.R. 2060 would clear the way for small-scale hydropower production at the base of Bowman Dam, creating about 50 jobs over the course of two construction seasons.
It would also allow Prineville to utilize up to 5,100 acre feet of water from Prineville Reservoir, or about 6 percent of the total unallocated water behind the dam (80,000 acre feet). The water certainty would allow Prineville to entice new technology opportunities like Facebook and Apple, and service all of the homes within city limits.
“Prineville should have the necessary tools to create jobs and attract new economic opportunities,” Rep. Walden said. “This small amount of water will help do just that.”
Because Prineville accesses its water from ground sources, the 5,100 acre feet of water would be released downstream, providing additional spilled water into the Crooked River that could benefit the blue-ribbon trout fishery below Bowman Dam. The bill also boosts conservation efforts in McKay Creek to enhance fish habitat.
Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe: “I want to thank Rep. Walden for his leadership in securing passage of this important bill. This bill will provide real benefits to our community and to the Crooked River. Our family farmers and ranchers will have the long-term water certainty they need to continue to produce wholesome food and agricultural products. Our city will secure additional water supplies for growth, and for our new businesses like Apple and Facebook. The bill also will accelerate steps for the restoration of McKay Creek, an important steelhead tributary. We are hopeful our Senators will join Rep. Walden in advancing legislation that meets the city’s interests this year.”
Crook County Judge Mike McCabe: “Rep. Walden’s bill will allow us to have water for our businesses as our town continues to grow, and it doesn’t cost the government anything. It gives us the hand up that we need so we can pursue other businesses with assurances that we’ll have the water resources they require. This is a good day for Prineville and Crook County.”
John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council: “The passage of this legislation by the House today is a critical step in providing Prineville and other communities in central Oregon with the assets and resources they need to attract and create good paying jobs for workers. Now it is time for the Senate to take up this common sense plan so we can get more folks back to work on the ground in Prineville.”
H.R. 2060: Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act
Clean energy and hydropower jobs . A clerical error led to the boundary line of the Crooked River Wild and Scenic Area being drawn down the middle of Bowman Dam, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dam and reservoir. Correcting the error requires congressional action.
Moving the boundary line downstream ¼ mile will fix this issue and allow a small-scale, private hydropower facility at the base of Bowman Dam to be constructed.
Construction of such a facility would employ about 50 skilled workers over the course of two construction seasons and would also provide approximately $140,000 in annual property tax revenues to Crook County.
The hydropower facility may also resolve a “total dissolved gas” problem at Bowman Dam. This problem, which occurs at dams around the world, can impair fish and wildlife habitat. The new facility could potentially alleviate this problem, improving habitat in the Crooked River.
Job-supporting water for Prineville. The legislation would allow the city of Prineville to utilize 5,100 acre feet of groundwater to meet existing and future demands, and allow it to attract new businesses similar to the Facebook data center, which has created new jobs and sparked investment.
Prineville relies solely on groundwater from wells which are interconnected to the Crooked River. The legislation would allow the City to secure up to 5,100 acre-feet of “mitigation credits” to offset new wells with the new releases of stored water at the dam into the Crooked River. These supplies would also be protected from diversion by others, benefitting fish and wildlife habitat in the river. These new releases represent a small fraction of the 80,000 acre feet of un-contracted water stored annually in the Reservoir.
The new releases will increase existing minimum releases by a total of 7 cubic feet per second (cfs) over the entire year. In dry years, particularly in the winter, this higher release requirement could benefit fish and wildlife, including the blue-ribbon trout fishery below Bowman Dam.
The water allocation for Prineville will also help the city create jobs and improve business opportunities. The city is currently in talks with multiple technology companies that are interested in locating to Prineville, but have indicated that the availability of water is a key consideration in their final decision.
McKay Creek restoration and other conservation efforts. Rep. Walden’s legislation would help spur the McKay Creek restoration project — which has stalled in recent years — by allowing Ochoco Irrigation District to deliver water to small family farms on the upper portions of McKay Creek.
The restoration project would restore up to 11.2 cfs of water rights instream to McKay Creek. The project also improves flow during the early summer, a critical period for steelhead emergence and migration. This project is supported by numerous watershed councils and organizations including the Deschutes River Conservancy.
The legislation also allows the Ochoco Irrigation District to participate in the Conserved Water program under Oregon State law, whereby a minimum of 25 percent of the total amount of water conserved must be placed instream, forever, as part of the program. Right now, the Ochoco Irrigation District, because of limitations in its contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, is unable to participate in this program.