Just when you think partisan politics have reached such a temperature that Congress can accomplish nothing, something comes along to change your mind. Thus the U.S. House of Representatives, on a voice vote, approved Rep. Greg Walden’s Jobs and Water Security Act without opposition.
Walden, R-Hood River, introduced the measure just about a year ago. It will, if approved by the Senate, do two things.
One is simply a matter of common sense. The Crooked River between the dam and the city of Prineville bears a “wild and scenic” designation, which limits development on it. The designation, which dates back to 1988, places one boundary through the middle of Bowman Dam, a placement most agree was made in error. Moving the boundary downstream a quarter-mile will allow Portland General Electric to begin planning a hydro power-generating facility at the dam.
Equally important, the change will allow for the release of some 5,100 acre-feet of water into the river above Prineville, which, in turn, will give that city the right to withdraw more badly needed water from wells in the area. Though Water Watch of Oregon contends that the measure doesn’t do anything for the river or the fish therein, we’d argue that 5,100 acre-feet, which will flow the length of the wild and scenic stretch of the Crooked River, is nothing to sneeze at.
Meanwhile, the extra water that will be withdrawn from wells could hardly go to a more deserving community. Crook County continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the state at nearly 14 percent, with the only real bright spot being the decisions of Apple and Facebook to locate facilities there. If those companies are to expand and others like them are to consider the area, an adequate water supply is critical.
Now Walden’s bill moves to the Senate, where both Oregonians, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, have said in the past they agree with at least the idea of the legislation. We hope they still do, and that they’re willing to fight for it, preferably unchanged. It’s a measure that does no harm to the Crooked River, and indeed enhances at least a portion of it, even as it does the citizens of Crook County some real good.