Growth Doesn't Pay for Itself
Several years ago, an editorial [in Bend] stated that growth was good because there would be more people to pay for needed services. This was in contrast to several studies that emphasized that growth does not pay for itself. It is subsidized by tax payers.
Our roads are a classic example. The city council could not find a way to maintain roads without submitting a gas tax to the voters. Also, the school board says it must sell Troy Field because it needs the money for rapidly growing schools.
We are a community obsessed with growth. The tech sector, beer and marijuana industries, colleges, real estate interests and, of course, tourism, all work to attract growth to the area. The result is over-burdened infrastructure, traffic congestion, increasingly crowded recreation areas, declining deer populations due to housing construction in their winter habitat and high cost of living, especially housing. Who monitors these impacts and recommends slowing the growth? No one.
The people responsible for promoting this growth are rewarded for their efforts, usually with public recognition and wealth. The recognition should be switched to individuals who are able to determine a way to maintain a healthy economy without promoting population growth.
In response to "A River Used to Run Through It," (2/4)
There is more water running down the Deschutes than ever before, thanks to the efforts of the irrigation districts. Like you, they would like to see the day when not a drop of water is wasted.
Their investments in lining canals and piping for three sustainable hydro plants have resulted in increased flows during the off season and a revenue stream to fund fish restoration projects here on the Deschutes River.
The Instream Water Rights Act and Oregon's State Scenic Waterways law, as well as the new groundwater mitigation fees are all part of the framework of existing water law that the districts operate within to improve flow levels.
Planning has been underway for years to address wildlife issues related to irrigation. Water Watch has become an unreliable partner at the planning table to resort to a lawsuit at this time.
One of the major factors in frog health on the Deschutes is that the frogs do not live in the river. They live in ponds, backwaters and sloughs that are abundant along the Deschutes and Little Deschutes. A quick Google survey found 41 backwaters on the river between Bend and Wickiup Reservoir. The Little Deschutes between Sunriver and Gilchrist had about 37. By contrast, many valley rivers have had their backwaters filled for farming decades ago.
These backwaters are filled by high flows during the irrigation season and provide a stable water level for the frogs during their reproductive season. My reading of this suggests that frogs benefit from dam operations and stable water levels during a critical time.
While most of these wetlands have remained intact on the Deschutes, that's not to say the local frogs are not facing problems. Jay Bowerman has fought a long battle to save frogs attempting to cross the roads as they emerge from the sloughs around Sunriver. The introduction of Bass to Crane Prairie is a serious obstacle to colonizing the wetlands there, but there have also been improvements.
The irony of water rights on the Deschutes is that the most productive cropland around Madras has the most junior water rights. The most senior are just north of Bend. So the folks who produce the most are the first in line to get cut. Those who use it mostly for horse hay will be assured of a steady supply. Frogs are not the only problem with water law. The irrigators agree on that one.
In response to "Water Rights," (2/18)
Yes, there is a higher diversion rate after the power plants were built. Specifically, the southern COID diversion diverts water for power through their intake pipe, but then returns it to the river 6000 feet downstream. Not a bad deal to power 2500 homes. Yes, COID and North Unit diverted a lot of water for a couple winters. That was to relieve flooding threats along the Deschutes in Tumalo, saving millions in potential flood damage.
This article exposes the lie behind this lawsuit. It is not about the frogs. It is for other interests and no amount of articles is going to hide the influence of the sport fishing industries on this issue. They need a lot of big fish to kill and have the river managed to keep it full of their customers. They don't mind destroying the agricultural base for three counties.
Piping canals is the best way to reduce losses and put more water back in the river. Obviously, real estate values trump any conservation proposals. SOS for the real estate industry around here.
So after two articles, I'm still waiting for any frog facts that are produced by competent researchers. Is there any real science on what is happening on the Deschutes?
The Bureau of Reclamation study seems to be the most current document and it suggests the frogs are declining due to invasive bullfrogs and Canary grass, not dam operations. You got any facts, let's hear 'em.
In response to "commentary: Just Add Water," (3/17)
The primitive river he waxes so eloquently on also killed half the population of early Bend. The fishing went downhill pretty quickly with the 40 fish daily limit.
The minimum stream flow that was established was the first minimum for any river in Oregon.
As to irrigator waste, that is the whole point of the hydro stations. There is finally a revenue stream to improve irrigation efficiency and fund fish restoration projects without undue burden on the farmers who use the water.
The assertion that there is a profit motive to run the hydro stations is wrong. These are regulated districts with limits on revenue. There are, however, millions of dollars needed for efficiency improvements and fish projects. These hydro stations are the revenue key to the success of these projects. The fly fishing industry here pales in comparison to the size of the farming economy created by the irrigators.
Tim – Thank you for responding to all three of our recent water-themed articles and for sharing your perspective regarding the various stakeholders in Central Oregon, including the irrigation districts, local farmers, conservationists, and sports fishermen. Please have a cup of coffee on us. Pick up you Palate gift card at the Source Weekly office.