Wyden discusses eastern Oregon water difficulties

<p>U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden answers questions at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Team luncheon Tuesday.</p>

Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden told community members issues surrounding water use are difficult, but an agreement this year in the Upper Klamath Basin could lead the way in making progress.

Wyden addressed a question about securing more water for eastern Oregon during a presentation at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Team luncheon Tuesday.

“It’s clear that water is front and center in terms of our state and agriculture and eastern Oregon,” Wyden said.

He said a water management agreement reached this year for the Upper Klamath Basin, could serve as a model for getting the required parties on board to secure more water for eastern Oregon.

“I think that’s going to be almost a model, particularly as it relates to the federal government, in terms of how we bring people together for water sharing,” Wyden said. “We try to ensure that we have the water for all our uses ... We have a lot of uses, and we wish we had more water. If we had all the water we needed, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

He said reaching such an agreement in eastern Oregon will require time and effort.

“This is going to be a big challenge for us,” Wyden said. “We worked for years on this Klamath agreement.”

He said steps have been taken, however, at the state level to begin addressing the issue regarding more water for eastern Oregon from the Columbia River.

“The governor has set up a task force already to look at the water issues,” he said. “The debate has sort of begun with respect to the Columbia (River). I just want you to know, I’m going to work very, very closely with state leaders and ag leaders, specifically, to build a fresh federal-state partnership, so we can find a way to get the water that we need for a host of uses.”

Wyden said there is “no question” additional water would be “an enormous shot in the arm economically” for eastern Oregon, but the process would require agreements between different entities.

“It would be easy to run around and say, ‘Well, if we do X, Y and Z, then it’s going to happen,’ but that’s not how you build a political coalition to make it happen,” Wyden said.

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