Where does the water go?
Grant money will help determine how unallocated water is used in Crook CountyCrook County is receiving a grant from the Oregon Water Resources Department to determine how unallocated water in the Prineville Reservoir can be used while maintaining existing reservoir uses.
According to Senior Policy Coordinator Brenda Bateman with the department, the grants have been awarded to 11 communities and total $155,000.
"These funds are meant to help communities that are taking a regional approach to meeting their current and future water needs," Bateman said.
Applicants were eligible for up to $20,000 per project and had to provide at least an extra 25 percent share. More than 30 applicants responded, requesting more than $600,000 total.
Mike Lunn said the Crook County Natural Resources Planning Committee applied for the money about a month ago, and said the grant was not only for determining how unallocated water in the reservoir can be used. He added that Kate Fitzpatrick from the Deschutes River Conservancy helped the committee write the grant.
"The grant itself is for a very preliminary part in the process in terms of what we call a situation assessment," Lunn said. In this case, the idea is to get people to work together to learn "more about the potential, whereby we could have a community-based consensus on how the water behind the Bowman Dam might be allocated."
"We only got a part of what we applied for," Lunn said, adding that this was about $10,000. "As I recall, we applied for $18,000 to $20,000. I don't have the information right in front of me, but again it was about half of what we had applied for."
Lunn emphasized that the group has not yet received the grant money, and that it will still need to fill out a bit more paperwork.
There are a variety of reasons Bowman Dam was built: consisting for flood control and irrigation; for fish; for instream flow for fish needs, particularly now with anadromous species; for agriculture; and flat water recreation such as boating and water-skiing.
"And with all these other uses coming together, how can we make these work together?" Lunn asked.
He said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the agency that manages the dam, has conducted three or four studies and environmental impact statements in recent years.
But a question has remained - "what if you have a real dry year?" as Lunn said. Additionally, how are water rights of farmers protected?
Lunn said the committee will interview as many people as possible who would be affected, including those who do not directly use the water, including recreationalists and environmentalists. One goal is to make the program work and there's a second one, too.
"To try to bring in the people who are not totally involved in the process - they might try to stop it at the end," he said.
He said the situation assessment should be done in four to six weeks, or by the end of this summer. If, after that process is done, and the group believes it could reach a community-based assessment, then various parties would be brought together to make that happen.
"Where communities have convened their citizens and stakeholders to develop regional solutions to their water supply challenges, we are pleased to support their efforts," said Phil Ward, director of the Oregon Water Resources Department. "These communities submitted very competitive applications and we hope for additional funds in the next budget cycle so that we can assist even more communities with their water supply planning."
The list of those receiving grants includes a wide variety of projects, ranging from water conservation, banking, storage, and transmission to policy road maps, instream environmental issues and out-of-stream city and agricultural forecasts.