SALEM Gov. Ted Kulongoski plans to ask voters to approve lottery money for his Headwaters to Ocean (H2O) initiative, which would fund water supply and quality needs, support related state agencies and set strategy for long-term management of water. Oregon is one of only two Western states without a comprehensive water plan.
Mike Carrier, the governor’s natural resources policy director, says Kulongoski plans to ask the 2009 Legislature to pass a referral bill to the voters asking for $100 million from projected new lottery dollars per biennium for 10 years. If approved, that bill likely will be on the November 2010 ballot, and begin funding in the 2011-2013 biennium.
“If you’re going to really make a meaningful impact, you’ve got to guarantee some resources over a period of time,” says Carrier. He says if voters don’t approve the lottery funding, “there is no backup plan.”
Water management in Oregon is fractured, contentious, underfunded and politicized, so with any water issue there always is debate. The Nature Conservancy in Oregon has told the governor it doesn’t support H2O because it lacks vision, is based on insufficient supply and demand information, has not adequately considered the environmental issues, and would have a negative impact on getting Measure 66 reauthorized. In 1998, voters approved M66, which set aside 7.5% of lottery funds for watershed restoration and habitat conservation for 15 years.
H2O is still in draft and Carrier emphasizes there will be more input from all stakeholders, such as water users, municipalities, environmental groups and legislators. He says H2O does not intend to create a new regulatory framework around water.
Rep. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland) says she hopes to hold a series of fall statewide sessions to get public input on water. Dingfelder, chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, plans to present that input to the Oregon Business Council and the Legislature. “We have a silo mentality in this state on how we manage our water,” she says. “I’m trying to break through those silos.” She says H2O is a good start, but “we can’t rely solely on this proposal for funding.”
There are some good things in H2O, says John DeVoe of WaterWatch, “but there’s going to have to be a lot of improvement before we can say it is what Oregon needs. The devil is always in the detail with water.”
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