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Commentaries and editorials

Brown Renews Support for
Eastern Oregon Water Project

by EO Media Group
Capital Press, March 23, 2015

Gov. Kate Brown said water bill is among her top priorities and expects funds to be available in April.

PENDLETON, Ore. -- The $51.6 million Columbia River water development fund is among Gov. Kate Brown's top priorities this session, and she said Friday she hopes to see the budget item approved by the end of April.

During a meeting with the East Oregonian editorial board, Brown said she is urging the legislature to "move quickly" on a package that would provide funding to expand irrigation in the Columbia Basin.

The expenditure was included in former Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposed budget, which is now being discussed by the Ways and Means Committee. Brown, who replaced Kitzhaber on Feb. 18, said the biggest hurdle to getting the development fund approved would be if the fund becomes a bargaining chip. She said she is encouraging leadership to pass the funding early in the session and let other pieces of the budget be decided from there.

State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) said the Senate is very supportive of the project and willing to carve out the dollars early, but he's not so sure about the House. He said Brown's visit east is a show of support, and he hopes that when she returns to the capitol she will help finalize the funding.

The $51.6 million would help fund a three-phase plan developed by the Northeast Oregon Water Association that would allow farmers to pump extra water from the Columbia Basin and also fund upstream projects that would help restore native fish runs. The plan could put 200,000 acres of farmland into production in Umatilla and Morrow counties.

Richard Whitman, who served as Kitzhaber's top natural resources advisor, has continued his role in Brown's office. He traveled with the governor this week and said he has a high level of comfort in the policy that has been presented to lawmakers.

EO Media Group
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