Milestone eastern Oregon water agreement signed
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The task force Columbia River-Umatilla Solutions signed an agreement Friday designed to hammer out water issues in eastern Oregon.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and groups from Washington and Oregon working together under the banner of the Columbia River Umatilla Solutions task force put their signatures Friday to an agreement that outlines specific strategies for water use in eastern Oregon.
The group — which includes representation from tribes, state and federal agencies and farmers, plus nonprofit groups, electricity generators and the Port of Morrow — has been working for close to a year on specific strategies for storing water for expanded agricultural use, increased economic activity in Eastern Oregon, and improved in-stream conditions for fish.
“This kind of collaborative project, supporting both agriculture and fisheries in the Umatilla Basin, is a good example of what we need to do to boost the economy in rural Oregon,” Kitzhaber said in a statement on Friday. “People with diverse interests have come together, found common ground, and developed a strategy that can benefit farms, salmon and new jobs in the region.”
Kitzhaber formed the group through the Oregon Solutions Network in April 2012.
The agreement's plan includes developing additional water storage capacity, improving water management and developing a regional, interstate approach with officials in Washington.
"Even with such a complex issue, people working together in good faith can accomplish a lot. Reaching this important milestone is just the beginning for supporting increased agriculture in the region," said Dennis Doherty, Umatilla County Commissioner, who served as co-convener of the group.
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