Editorial: Congress needs to pass Bowman Dam bill

Bowman Dam’s issues didn’t get fixed in the last Congress. They should get fixed in this one. The issues are simple enough.

We don’t know who said this first, but there is nothing wild and scenic about a dam.

When the Crooked River was designated wild and scenic under federal law, Bowman Dam was included. It’s an earthen, man-made dam. Because the dam is so very “wild and scenic” that means no hydropower can be built. The fix would be to move the boundary.

Prineville could also use access to more water to supply homes and businesses. The city can’t pump more water without replacing the water in the aquifer. So the fix is to release more water from behind the dam so Prineville could pump more for its community.

Fish and wildlife behind the dam could use increased stream flows. The fix is to increase the amount of water released downstream.

Those aren’t the only issues and there are differences of opinion about them.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., had one version of a solution. His passed the House. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats, had another version.

The Bowman Dam bills died as Congress tussled over the sequester. What we hope we can count on is that our legislative delegation will come up with ways to resolve problems. If they can’t agree on a comprehensive fix for all of the issues, think small. They need to pass what they can agree on.

It’s not too much to ask to release more unallocated water from behind the dam so Prineville can get the water it needs for its community. Start with that.