In a move that demonstrates the critical concern over water supplies in the west, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has hired a water resource specialist.
Margaret Matter, a hydraulic engineer who previously worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado’s Western Area Power Administration, began work March 3.
Ray Jaindl, director of the state ag department’s Natural Resource Programs, said the department needed a strong presence at statewide discussions regarding water storage development and reauthorization of water stored in the Corps of Engineers system of dams and reservoirs on the Willamette River.
On the latter, Jaindl said the 13 dams were built with the assumption that agriculture would use much of the water. But farmers have not used their full allocation, in part because it is not accessible to some agricultural land. In the meantime, the state’s cities, pressed to serve growing populations, have begun eyeing the Willamette system as a drinking water source.
Matter said there are other interrelated elements to consider as well.
“Meeting water demand of future population growth in the Valley and irrigated agriculture are two important issues,” she said by email. “But recreation and concerns for protecting and enhancing water quality and fisheries are also priorities.”
Matter’s experience includes flow analysis, watershed modeling, risk analysis, water quality analysis, and flow simulations on state and federal projects in the San Francisco Bay, Sacramento and San Joaquin River deltas, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Gunnison River and Arkansas River, among others. She holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering.