Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett

                   MARCH ECONOMIC FORECAST

The Oregon March economic forecast was released Monday and the news was not good.

Projected state revenue income from general fund tax collections and lottery fund profits is projected to be down by more than $190 million since the December 2009 forecast. The projected reduction in state revenue since July 1, 2009 is more than $400 million. Moreover, the 2009 fourth quarter report was the seventh consecutive month of job losses and declining revenue.

After two years precipitous reductions in jobs and revenue it might be time to ask, “Is what we are doing, working for us?”.  Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the policies that have created this ongoing train wreck. Perhaps it is time for Oregonians to reconsider the wisdom of raising taxes, enlarging fees, and expanding regulation on the business community that sustains our private sector jobs and state economy.

In the early days of the 2010 emergency special session it does not appear that the majority Democrats are reconsidering their policy choices.


The Oregon Legislature has now completed the first week of the February emergency special session. That first week has made it clear, that there certainly is no emergency, and that there is nothing special about this session.

The so called “emergency” was scheduled last spring to begin on February 1st and end on February 28th. The entire session has been orchestrated in advance for months even though the majority of Legislators voted to call themselves into special session only last week. In fact, the session limits and time frames were established well before the June 29th end of the 2009 Legislature.

The leadership adopted rules that allowed each Senator to request two bills to be drafted, and each Representative one bill. The leadership required that the drafting request to be made before mid-November. The leadership also required that all bills be introduced by January 15th. That was more than two weeks before the members actually voted to call the body into session. Of course, the leadership has also created exceptions to those limits and time frames that allow themselves to introduce any bill at just about any time.

The only thing special about the emergency special session is that it appears to be designed to virtually exclude public participation in the law making process. That is why I voted no when the Senate adopted the Rules for this special session. Some in this legislative body tend to forget that we are elected by the people and that we must listen to the people in order to do their bidding.

Most Oregon citizens have been unable to get their concerns addressed because they were not made aware that all bills had to be drafted way back in November. We have been forced to deny numerous requests to draft bills because we are limited to only two bills and because the request came after the November deadline.

Equally disturbing, from the first day of the special session we have been on 24 hour posting for committee hearings. That means the only public hearing and work session on a bill may be held with only one day’s notice to the public. That schedule serves to virtually eliminate the opportunity for most people in Eastern, Southern, or Coastal Oregon to participate in the law making process. By the time the people find out what is being done to them, the opportunity to testify at a hearing or work session has already passed. We expect to be placed on one hour committee notice at any time serving to essentially close the door for public participation.

This special session is the second in the Democrat leadership’s experiment for having annual Legislative sessions. In fact, the Democrat leadership has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 41 this that will refer a constitutional amendment to the people to decide if their Legislature should meet annually. In my opinion, the people should be very skeptical if that leadership plans to run future annual sessions the way that they are running the current annual special sessions.

                             SENATE BILL 1060

For instance, one bill of particular concern to those who live and work in rural Oregon is SB 1060 introduced by Senator Alan Bates of Ashland. This bill proposes to change the term navigable stream to floatable stream. It then defines a floatable waterway as any stream, lake, or reservoir that is capable of floating virtually any device at any time of the year notwithstanding shallow riffles and cobbles. The bill prevents any obstruction across the stream that would potentially interfere with floating devices. Any obstruction such as a fence or diversion dam that crosses the stream would have to be removed even if it is located on private land.

The bill, as currently written, would expand state control over the beds and banks of most of the streams in Oregon. It provides for public access to these streams on private lands to the extent of the normal high water mark. It also provides for public passage on adjacent private lands for portage, for emergency egress, and to continue the public use of the waterway. Moreover, the bill prevents the landowners under penalty of law from interfering with the public use of those newly claimed public rights.

At least three amendments have been proposed to SB 1060, each making the original bill even worse in my opinion.

For instance, all three amendments define a waterway as any stream with a headwater. The dictionary definition of a headwater is the highest point in a watershed. If these amendments were adopted, any stream, intermittent stream, or ephemeral stream that flows enough water to float an inner tube at any time of the year could be defined as a floatable stream. The bed and the banks of any floatable stream would then be claimed by the state for public access and public use.

We are working very hard with our water coalition group to get this overt attack on private property rights stopped. A letter signed by thirteen natural resources groups was sent to President Courtney last Friday requesting that this bill be at least postponed until a session when the people would have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in. I can only imagine the righteous public outrage if a bill of this scope is hammered through our very special session without opportunity for meaningful public participation.


HB 3661 is another bill that should be of great concern to all Oregonians. This bill proposes to exert draconian restrictions on the construction and use of domestic wells that provide water for families and livestock.

Landowners currently have the right to construct domestic wells on their property that are exempt from the requirements to obtain a water right permit or certificate. This has always been considered an inherent property right in Oregon. The landowner is entitled to beneficially use up to 15,000 gallons per day from the well for family household use. In addition, the landowner is allowed to water his livestock and to irrigate up to one half acre of lawn and garden from the well.

Those who use group domestic wells and that have wells for industrial uses have similar property rights. Each landowner that accesses a group domestic well can use up to 15,000 gallons per day for family use as well as use the well to provide water for his livestock and to irrigate up to one half acre of lawn and garden. Industrial users are allowed up to 5,000 gallons per day for industrial use and are allowed to irrigate up to one half acre of lawn.

HB 3661 proposes to reduce the total amount of allowable use from any newly constructed domestic well to 5,000 gallons per day for individual exempt domestic wells including water needed for garden, lawn and livestock watering. The bill would allow 15,000 gallons per day for group domestic wells for the total of all families who use the well. It would further restrict the group well use to only enough water to irrigate only one half acre parcel of lawn or garden from each group domestic well. It would restrict industrial use to only 5,000 gallons per day including water for landscape maintenance. Finally, it would allow the Oregon Water Resources Department to require a water right permit for domestic wells constructed in critical groundwater areas or in limited groundwater areas designated by the Oregon Water Resources Commission.

In my opinion this bill has too many faults to adequately describe.

It appears to have constitutional “takings” issues both with traditional access to ground water and trespass. There is no need for the bill because the actual consumption of groundwater for domestic use is virtually irrelevant compared to other usage. The bill will certainly reduce the opportunities for building new homes and businesses dependent on groundwater thereby costing jobs, hurting the economy and reducing state revenue. And most certainly, it will not be good for rural Oregon.

Please remember that if we fail to stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

Best regards,


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              Page Updated: Tuesday February 09, 2010 03:40 AM  Pacific

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