Millions of dollars. Widespread agreement on contentious issues. Changes in laws and regulations.
With those three things, all of the water issues in the Deschutes Basin could be solved. So it’s simple, right?
Unfortunately not. There are, though, a lot of good ideas about solutions. There is some agreement on them. And Oregon’s congressional delegation has worked hard to bring in federal dollars for piping projects.
What could help is technical expertise at the state level to help the Deschutes Basin work through some of the issues. The regulations and laws around water are complex. Even when there is agreement between water rights holders, irrigation districts, conservation groups and more, figuring out how to make new tools for reallocating water in a smarter way is not easy.
In her 2019 budget, Gov. Kate Brown did propose that state government would get a few of these “complex basin manager” positions. They were later cut. The subject came up again at a meeting in Salem about a week ago among stakeholders of the Oregon Water Resources Department. Erik Kancler, the city of Bend’s lobbyist, mentioned the idea at the Feb. 5 Bend City Council meeting. The hope has been that maybe during the short session some money could be found to create such positions.
It seems unlikely to happen this session. But legislators from Central Oregon should put it on their wishlist for the 2021 session.