Today, the Senate passed the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act introduced by Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden. The Senate passed similar legislation, also sponsored by Smith and Wyden, in 2002.
"The projects authorized by this bill represent a positive approach to resolving the water issues facing the Wallowa River Basin," Smith said.
"The hard work put into these projects by federal, state, and local interests is one step closer to being rewarded."
"The Senate has done the right thing by listening to folks in eastern Oregon and approving this home-grown, creative solution to water management," Wyden said. "It's my hope to see this bill move to the president's desk so rehabilitation work can start at Wallowa Dam."
The act would authorize the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of Reclamation, to participate in, and provide funding for, the rehabilitation of the Wallowa Lake Dam and the Wallowa Valley Water Management Plan. Local entities have developed these two projects with the participation of numerous state and federal agencies and the support of local tribal leaders.
The owner of the Wallowa Lake Dam is the Associated Ditch Company. ADC President Darrell McFetridge said of the Senate action, "It feels great.
Now I just hope it will get through the House of Representatives."
In its original form, the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act was a $32 million project to rehabilitate the aging Wallowa Lake Dam, provide fish passage from the Wallowa River through the dam to Wallowa Lake, create a water exchange infrastructure downstream for fish enhancement between the Wallowa River, Lostine River and Bear Creek, and provide a hydropower facility at the dam.
The hydropower portion of the plan has been removed from the project.
The bill passed the Senate attached to other bills and had no budgetary numbers added.
Jeff Oveson of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, who helped write the vision statement for the project in February 2001, said that dam proponents have a lot of work to do. He said that proponents are counting on the help of Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, but will be opposed by Chuck Cushman and the American Land Rights group.