Luke Maynard, president of the Oregon Water Coalition, said the organization would continue educating its 200 members and others about regional water issues in 2011.

His remarks followed those of the coalition’s executive director, Harmon Springer, who said “there’s been talk” of disbanding the organization.

Maynard, irrigation manager at the GreenWood Resources poplar farm near Boardman, presided over the coalition’s 18th annual meeting Tuesday at the Hermiston Conference Center. More than 40 people attended the meeting, which featured speakers about the need for more water storage in the Umatilla River Basin, water-related legislation pending in Salem and an update on the Umatilla Basin Project.

“The Oregon Water Coalition looks forward in 2011 and the future in helping to educate our community to promote responsible development, conservation and use of water,” Maynard said.

Tom Paul, deputy director of the Oregon Water Resources Department, discussed hydraulic wells along the Umatilla River and their impact on river levels. The agency regulates the use of about 24 of those wells to help preserve senior water rights. That “regulation,” or limit on the wells’ use, generally begins in mid-May to mid-June to protect irrigation rights for those with more senior rights. The limits usually allow wheat growers to irrigate their crops, but may limit hay growers to one or two cuttings instead of three or four, he said.

“The Umatilla River doesn’t have enough water in it in summer to satisfy all water rights,” Paul said. “The state has been regulating wells within one-quarter mile of the Umatilla River since the 1990s.”

In fact, he said, use of another two dozen wells between one-quarter mile and one mile from the river also deplete the river as well.

“What we’re trying to do is find solutions to the problem,” Paul said. “We want to maintain our economic base, maintain irrigation, but also maintain senior water rights.”

The efforts under way by the Umatilla Basin Water Commission are significant, he said.

“We need to get our arms around the available water resource and make it available to meet our needs,” Paul said.

Also at the meeting, Maynard announced the coalition’s officers had been re-elected for 2011: Maynard, president; Nate Rivera, vice president and Tammie Williams, treasurer. Directors are Ken Johnson, Greg Juul, Ray Kopacz, Bill Porfily and Mike Wick.

 

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