WALLOWA, Ore. — Woody Wolfe, who farms in Wallowa County, has been appointed to the Water Resources Commission by Gov. Kate Brown.
The appointment awaits confirmation by the state Senate, with a vote set for Sept. 22.
“I guess it either means I was qualified or nobody else applied,” Wolfe said. “I had a couple friends hit me up about applying. They felt I would be a good candidate. I’ve always been interested in water law and become fairly averse about how it applies to my property specifically. The resource of water is one of the most valuable. I have been diligent to understand how that works.”
Wolfe is filling a vacancy on the seven-person commission left by Bruce Corn, according to Elizabeth Merah, press secretary for Brown.
He will represent the Eastern Region, consisting of the Owyhee, Malheur, Grande Ronde, Malheur Lake, Middle Snake and Powder drainage basins. The commission sets statewide water resources policy and oversees the work of the Water Resources Department.
Each of the five commissioners represents one of the regional river basins, and two members are at-large.
Commissioners serve four-year terms.
Wolfe said he sees the appointment as a learning opportunity and to be on the forefront of the changes he believes are coming concerning water use.
"As much water as there is flowing through Wallowa County, it is a scarce resource. As our regional and global population grows, it’s going to have to be regulated to a greater degree,” he said. “Exactly what that looks like, I don’t know. I felt like it was in my best interest to maybe, possibly, have a say in what that looks like and have a voice in the decisions that are made....
“My perspective is that if changes are made, we need to try to gain efficiencies in water use either from a consumptive standpoint or an evaporation standpoint. I don’t really have an opinion as far as we need to see more regulation, I would be more open to creative changes to water law that can increase efficiencies.”
Wolfe has experience with increasing water efficiency on his property.
“I’ve been successfully awarded a grant for an irrigation efficiency project, which was through the Water Resource Department,” he said. “That has given me some experience with water transfers and water statutes and some of the things that are avenues to the use of the Water Resource Department that I think the average irrigator doesn’t have."
He said he's been an "active conservationist" on his property.
"And that has led me to work with the Water Resource Department on a fair amount. I have some experience there,” he said.
He also believes he can apply his knowledge of Wallowa County to the rest of the region he’ll cover for the commission.
“Part of my task will be applying what I know and manipulating that to understand how things work in Ontario or Burns, or places that are geographically different and having the thought process of ‘Can things work there or can it not apply,’” he said.
The term Wolfe is serving ends June 30, 2025.