SALEM — To give the issue more consideration, lawmakers have shelved a bill intended to clarify that Oregon water law allows transfers between storage reservoirs.
Water transfers among reservoirs stopped being permitted by state regulators due to a changed legal interpretation, which is problematic for the water managers such as the Tumalo Irrigation District in Central Oregon.
The irrigation district was unable to transfer its storage water from Crescent Lake to instream uses and to transfer water from the Tumalo reservoir to smaller ponds to correct pressure problems.
Senate Bill 1558 would have established that such transfers are allowable, but the proposal has failed to survive a legislative deadline to stay alive in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said that “stakeholders” involved in the issue have agreed it’s “too complicated to be dealt with quickly.”
The problem will undergo a “prolonged discussion” before next year’s full legislative session, which lasts for roughly half a year, he said. The 2018 short session will wrap up in early March.
“We want to make sure there are no unintended consequences from the changes we were making,” Dembrow said. “Needless to say, when you’re dealing with water, things get complicated pretty quickly.”