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Urgent from Senator Whitsett: Email rep on tomorrows HB2564, well meters

May 15, 2007

At 5pm this afternoon we were notified that HB 2564, Oregon's Water Measurement Bill will be voted on by the full House of Representatives Wednesday May 16th. Please contact the  members of the Oregon House of Representatives and ask for a "no" vote on this bill.  You can find their e-mail addresses at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/

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 From: Whitsett
Sent: May 15, 2007 Subject: FW: Officials vote to charge property owners to draw groundwater-fyi-jt

We need a full court press against the Oregon Water Measurement bill HB 2564, which is coming to the House of Representatives for a vote later this week .  The following article exemplifies what is bound to happen with time when all of the water measurement devices are mandatorily installed in Oregon. PLEASE call or e-mail the members of the Oregon House of Representatives and ask for a "no" vote on this egregious and draconian bill that has the potential to destroy agriculture in Oregon, and cause undue significant harm to the citizens of the state who depend on water wells for their homes and businesses.  It is expected to be carried by Representative Bob Jensen (Republican of Umatilla), but this is the culmination of many years of trying to get in to law, by the Portand Democrat, Jackie Dingfelter. 

A letter of opposition to this bill has already been signed by a dozen major agricultural, civic, forestry and industry groups, but ultimately the people of Oregon carry the most weight with the elected officials, as they have the power to vote the supporters of this bill out of office. 

All of the e-mail addresses of the Oregon House of Representatives can be found at  http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/

It is imperative to contact each representative and let them know the citizens of the state do not want this bill and that it is not an innocuous bill.  It has the potential to be harmful and extremely costly.

Talking points on the bill include:

1.) THERE IS NO REASON TO CODIFY THE OWRD'S CURRENT MEASUREMENT PROGRAM

       The legislation is unnecessary to the extent it attempts to codify the strategic water measurement proram the OWRD already has statutory authority for and is already implementing.

2.) AMENDMENT DOES MORE THAN CODIFY OWRD's CURRENT MEASUREMENT PROGRAM

 The legislation does far more than codify the OWRD's current measurement program.  The amendment seeks to require water users to measure AND REPORT  their water use to the Department.   The existing program being implemented by the OWRD does not require water use reporting.

3.) WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF REPORTING  WATER USE?

The proposed amendment seeks to require water users to measure and report their water use.  Proponents have yet to provide a reason for why water use should be reported to the department and what the department intends to do with the data.

4.) AMENDMENT FAILS TO ADDRESS COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH WATER USE REPORTING

The OWRD will incur substantial costs if water users  are required to report their water use, particularly  if water use is reported on a broad scale.  The amendment does not provide the OWRD with the funding that will be necessary to make use of the data reported to the department.

5.) COST SHARE COMPONENTS OF THE AMENDMENT ARE A FALSE PROMISE

 The legislation directs OWEB to operate a grant program for measurement devices.  However, the amendment provides no guarantee to the level of funding in the grant program.  Successful cost-share programs, like the fish-screening program, specifically articulate the level of funding that is avalable to landowners.

6.) AMENDMENT DOES NOT CREATE INCENTIVES FOR WATER MEASUREMENT

The most productive method  of increasing water measurement in Oregon would be a voluntary approach. If the state provides incentives for water measurement, many landowners would participate on a voluntary basis. The amendment continues to mandate measurement instead of recognizing the benefits of a voluntary approach.

THIS IS A BAD BILL - PLEASE CONTACT ALL 60  MEMBERS OF THE OREGON HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND DEMAND A "NO" VOTE  OF THEM ON HB 2564.

 Thank you for your consideration and time.

Gail Hildreth Whitsett

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Officials vote to charge property owners to draw groundwater
 
By Alex Breitler
Record Staff Writer
May 15, 2007 6:00 AM
LODI, California - A handful of people booed the loudest, but it was the silence of thousands more that was the deciding factor as officials voted Monday to charge rural landowners to draw groundwater.

The unanimous vote by the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District marked the end of three straight weeks of Monday night hearings over the new fee - or tax, depending on whom you ask.

North San Joaquin district officials say the money is needed to pay for new pipelines and other equipment to take water from the Mokelumne River and deliver it to farms as well as put it underground to boost the aquifer.

The state is threatening to take away the district's water rights if it cannot make full use of the water it is allocated.

Property owners could have thwarted the district's plan if a majority had filed protests. But of the 5,501 property owners potentially subject to the fees, only 974 protested, an attorney for the district said.

Critics blamed the district for poor communication and claimed that as a result, some of the protests went astray in the mail or were never filed.

"I've never heard of a voting system this way in America," retired farmer Bill Fuhs said.

District officials said they followed the letter of Proposition 218, a voter-approved initiative allowing taxpayers to reject tax increases and assessments.

Under the fee, rural homeowners are asked to pay $21.40 a year. Growers would be assessed anywhere from $6.42 an acre to $17.12 an acre. The fee would raise about $900,000 a year.

If nothing is done, the district loses its Mokelumne River water rights, and groundwater levels will keep falling at an average of 1 foot per year, Ed Steffani, the district's manager, has said.

As the district's former attorney Bud Adams put it at a previous hearing: "We're going to be raising tortoises out here" without water from the river.

State officials have threatened to step in and decide how much groundwater should be used in San Joaquin County. Such a move could slap meters on farmers' wells, reducing groundwater pumping by 25 percent in the North San Joaquin district and hurting the economy, Steffani has said.

Bryan Pilkington, who lives on Bear Creek, said he will voice his disgust over the fee at a key hearing next month.

The State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled June 21 to decide if the district's water rights should be preserved.

Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com.
 

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