Oregon Water Resources Commission Approves Water Rules

This article was in Monday’s (April 15, 2019) Herald and News
Written By: Holly Dillemuth, H&N Staff Reporter

Oregon Water Resources Commission members in Salem Friday unanimously voted to approve new, short-term rules affecting how the state agency will manage groundwater for water right holders in the Upper Basin.

The rules, slated to last through 2021, are intended to give the state agency time to develop long-term rules, but allow the state to continue to regulate in the meantime.

A handful of people were on hand to listen in to the meeting over the telephone at Klamath County Government Center in Klamath Falls, including Oregon Water Resources Department staff.

The interim rules provide regulation of wells located 500 feet of surface water. There are seven wells within that distance of surface water that may be subject to regulation to meet the call of a senior water right-holder under the new rules.

“It’s only in place for two years — that affords us, OWRD, time to really work individually with people to get more well information and that’s pretty much the intent,” said Dani Watson, watermaster of District 17 in Klamath Falls. “…To really focus on the Klamath and focus on individuals and their wells.”

Ivan Gall, administrator of the field services division of OWRD, will visit Upper Basin landowners regarding their wells to enhance communication between the state agency and well owners.

“That way, the interaction is a lot more positive usually, people feel a lot more comfortable talking in smaller groups,” Watson said.

Watson said she plans to compile the initial list of places to visit and expand on that.

“If people are interested in just having a conversation about it, give us a call and I’ll put you on the list,” Watson said. “If they know something about their well that would help us, tell us.”

Prior to the approval of the rules, OWRD held two public meetings in Klamath Falls. Nearly 30 comments were received from the public on the issue as of March 4.

“Most people didn’t love it,” Watson said. “But I think we’re kind of in this new world where we’re all trying to figure this out as we’re going.”

The need for new rules stems from the termination of the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA).

Watson said in 2021, next steps to develop regarding rules will depend on the amount of information OWRD is able to obtain from the community.

“If we have a great collaborative effort and we are able to come up with a policy for regulation that’s doable for everybody … that might be implemented,” Watson said. “But that’s not up to me, that’s up to the Commission.”

For more information, contact the watermaster’s office at OWRD in Klamath Falls at 541-883-4182.

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