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Decision in Washington, D.C. could impact Crooked River

By Matt McDonald
Published On: Aug 10 2012 10:25:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 10 2012 10:35:38 PM CDT

In tonight's Green Life, NewsChannel 21's Matt McDonald looks at legislation proposed to resolve years of issues over Crooked River water rights.

From data centers to fish, they all need some of the water flowing down the Crooked River. Senator Jeff Merkley introduced a bill helping define how the water held behind the Bowman Dam is divvied up.

"This would assure us of water for the next 15 or 20 years," said Betty Roppe, the mayor of Prineville.

Unlike past disputes over water rights, it appears there is enough water to go around.

"The modeling plan shows that there's a sufficient amount of water to meet the needs of agriculture and to meet the needs of the fish," said Brian Barney, a board member from the Ochoco Irrigation District.

A similar bill introduced by Rep. Greg Walden passed the house, but faced a bleak future in the Senate. Merkley's bill will likely need Walden's support to get through the House. His staff says they're still researching the bill's impacts.

Downstream, the decision will impact the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs.

"Fish is very important to our tribes. because we're fish people. We come from the Columbia River," said Bobby Brunoe, the natural resource manager for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

There is also concern above the dam. The Oregon Bass Federation wants to make sure there's enough water left in the reservoir.

The tribes, irrigation district, the city of Prineville, Crook County and some environmental groups are supporting Merkley's bill, but they'll have to wait for word from Washington D.C.

"I don't expect it until October, November at the earliest. But it's possible it could go until next year, but I'm hoping not," said Roppe.

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