Merkley, Walden Deliver Crooked River Agreement as Legislation Passes Senate

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Greg Walden announced they have reached an agreement on legislation to implement a collaborative vision for water management along the Crooked River, and that the bill passed the Senate unanimously this afternoon.

These developments set the stage for the bill to become law soon and deliver improved water certainty and a stronger foundation for economic growth and job creation in Central Oregon.  

“This is a great victory for Central Oregon,” Merkley said. “This collaborative plan, which reflects enormous contributions from throughout the community, resolves a 40-year fight over water. It’s a win-win plan that will bring jobs and certainty to the region, ensuring water for economic development, farming, recreation, and healthy streams. My thanks go out to everyone in Central Oregon who helped make this plan a reality, as well as to Congressman Walden and Senator Wyden, and I look forward to seeing Central Oregon thrive with a win-win water management plan.”

“This bill is a win for jobs in Central Oregon,” said Walden. “It provides much needed water to Prineville for city residents and economic development, ensures certainty for farmers, improves fish habitat for tribes and other fishermen, paves the way for energy generation at Bowman Dam, and protects recreation.  I want to thank all stakeholders who worked in a collaborative way to get to this agreement which benefits the region as a whole. And I’d like to thank Senator Merkley for stepping up and working hard in this effort. Barring any unforeseen delays, the House will soon pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

Senator Merkley and Representative Walden have been working intensely to agree on legislation and to clear a path for passage in both houses of Congress. The legislation will implement the collaborative water management vision developed by local stakeholders in Central Oregon, including the City of Prineville, Crook County, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, American Rivers, Deschutes Basin Board of Control (representing the seven major irrigation districts in Central Oregon), NW Steelheaders, Ochoco and North Unit Irrigation Districts, Portland General Electric, Trout Unlimited, WaterWatch, and Central Oregon Flyfishers.

The legislation will provide numerous benefits to water users and the Central Oregon region by:

  • Meeting the municipal water needs for the city of Prineville long into the future so the city can continue to attract new businesses like data centers that require reliable water supplies;
  • Providing greater certainty for the agricultural community that depends on the Crooked River for irrigation;
  • Allowing water to be released from Bowman Dam to help maintain a healthy steelhead, salmon and trout fisheries, which are cherished by local fishermen;
  • Moving the federal wild and scenic river boundary from the top of the dam, fixing an administrative error that has blocked efforts to retrofit Bowman Dam to generate clean hydroelectric power; and
  • Creating a process to help better plan for dry years, in terms of the impact on fish habitat and fishing, as well as boating and other recreational activities.