H.R. 2060: Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act

H.R. 2060

Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
June 5, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, June 5, 2060, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2060, the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on May 31, 2011, by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on October 5, 2011.

Bill Summary

Wild and Scenic River; Crooked River Oregon: The bill would modify the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to re-designate the boundary of the Wild and Scenic River designation on the Crooked River in Oregon. The bill would move the upper boundary line one quarter mile downstream of the Arthur R. Bowman Dam in order to allow up to six megawatts of hydropower development at the Dam which is otherwise restricted under the boundaries established by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The bill would require any future hydropower developer to analyze any related impacts to the river and propose mitigation for any impacts.

City of Prineville Water Supply: H.R. 2060 would expand the number of cubic feet per second of water released from the Arthur R. Bowman Dam to serve as a state mitigation credit for groundwater pumping by the City of Prineville, Oregon, and require the city to pay for the additional water release. The water released would serve as a state mitigation credit for groundwater pumping by the City of Prineville, however, the water released would not actually be withdrawn from the Crooked River.

First Fill Protection: The bill would require that the water supply contracts held between various irrigation districts and the federal government are met prior to the use or release of stored water behind the Dam for any new or additional purposes. The bill would also provide that nothing in this provision modifies existing contracts or any rights, obligations or requirements under Oregon law.

Ochoco Irrigation District: H.R. 2060 would allow the nearby Ochoco Irrigation District to pre-pay its capital repayment contract with the federal government and would require the Secretary of the Interior to certify that such amounts have been fully repaid. The provision would also provide a mechanism for an exchange of water and lands so that more water is used for fish restoration on McKay Creek. This section would also amend the water contracts to enable the District to participate in “Conserved Water Projects” under Oregon law, if it so chooses.

Background

The Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created in 1968 with the intent of protecting the natural characteristics of the nation’s “outstanding,” free flowing rivers and their immediate surrounding environments from development. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides three separate designations for rivers: wild, scenic, or recreational. According to the National Wild and Scenic River System, a river, or section of river, is designated wild if it is free of impoundments, has primitive shorelines, is only accessible by trails, and has unpolluted waters. Scenic rivers are meant to have largely undeveloped shorelines, may be accessible by roads in places, and are more developed than wild rivers. Rivers are designated as recreational if they are readily accessible by road, have some development along the shoreline, and may have had some impoundment or diversion (like a dam) in the past. If a river receives a Wild and Scenic River designation, no new dams may be constructed and federally-assisted water resource development projects would not be allowed. Specifically, the designation prohibits federal construction of dams or other facilities that endanger the free flow and/or resource value of the river. In the past, some segments of rivers that Congress has included in the Wild and Scenic River System have been scrutinized because they seemingly lacked the essential natural qualities needed to be designated as a scenic river.

According to Committee Report 112-438, The City of Prineville is located in Crook County, Oregon, and has had the State’s highest unemployment rates (ranging from 15%-20%) for several consecutive years due to loss of traditional logging and natural resources jobs. The recent construction of Faceboo’'s first custom-built data center within the City limits and the potential establishment of three other similar facilities could help reverse the economic situation. However, the lack of adequate water supplies could prevent further economic development.

Near the City, the Crooked River flows as a tributary of the Deschutes River. Both rivers serve as a valuable water supply source for irrigated agriculture in central Oregon. In fact, seven irrigation districts rely on water from these two rivers. The Arthur R. Bowman Dam, a Bureau of Reclamation-owned project on the River, plays a pivotal role in delivering some of that water. It is an earthen structure about 20 miles upstream from Prineville. The Dam's congressionally authorized purposes include flood control and irrigation. Water releases from the Dam also provide water for a cold-water fishery. Although the Dam impounds 160,000 acre feet of water at full capacity, approximately 80,000 acre feet of this water is not contracted for specific uses. However, the Bureau of Reclamation annually releases some of the uncontracted water supplies for fish and wildlife purposes into the lower Crooked River and will continue to do so during good water years.

Like much of the West, central Oregon has experienced controversies over the Endangered Species Act as part of the larger Columbia basin. As a way to protect irrigation districts in the local watershed and to reintroduce steelhead on an experimental basis, various parties at the governmental and non-governmental levels have worked on a collaborative basis. This legislation, as amended, seeks to continue that collaborative partnership through provisions that provide a long-term water supply for the area, generate clean and emissions-free hydropower and allocate more water for fishery’s purposes at no cost to the American taxpayer.

 

Cost

According to CBO, enacting H.R. 2060 would “have an insignificant impact on direct spending.” CBO estimated that provisions requiring repayments from local jurisdictions could increase federal receipts by up to $90,000 over ten years.