On Friday, the Umatilla County Critical Groundwater Task Force took an evening to thank its members and water-related people in Umatilla and Morrow Counties who have contributed to the five-year effort that resulted in the finished Umatilla Sub-Basin 2050 Water Management Plan last year.

Umatilla County Planners J.R. Cook and Tamra Mabbott recognized all task force members and county staff with plaques and lapel pins with the task force logo.

They also took a moment to recognizes a task force member, Tyler Hansell, who died last summer, and thanked his family.

"We lost one of our task force members throughout this process," Cook said. "Tyler did a lot for this basin and his life was cut short. We wanted to give him and his family a token of our appreciation for letting us borrow him for a while."

Cook read the plaque specially made for Hansell and his family, with the lapel pin included in the frame, so the pin is always for Hansell and will never be worn by anyone else.

"His work, wisdom and humor - I wanted to underline that," Cook said, reading the plaque. "Will always be appreciated just as he will always be missed."

The evening also included a sneak peek of Sarah Sheldrick's documentary film, "Water Before Anything" before it premiered Saturday in Pendleton.

Sheldrick, who is finishing up graduate school at Oregon State University, took time to introduce the film and answer questions from the audience.

"I was really just trying to represent what was going on here because I think your story's really important, for not just what you've done here in your community for each other and the general use of water, but you're not the only community facing this problem," she said. "I'm hoping the film will reach out further into different people in different areas that are also trying to figure out this problem."

Umatilla County Commissioner Dennis Doherty also took the time to recap all the work that went into the task force and the 2050 Plan, likening the problem of preserving water in the basin to eating an elephant - chomping down one piece at a time - and the solution to a string of beads - one thing leading to another and another and another. This included the planning commission meeting five years ago that lead to the task force, that lead to the 2050 plan and influenced S.B. 1069 and the $750,000 feasibility study being carried out by IRZ Consulting, which has lead to Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed $2.5 million to start a recharge project in the Umatilla Basin.

"I want to thank all of you who have done your part in this," Doherty said. "I know some of you have poured your heart and soul and some of you have poured treasures into it as well."

Another theme Doherty touched on is working together.

"If you look back at the history of the basin, when we haven't worked together, we've had good ideas but they didn't go anyplace," he said. "When we work together, good things happen and that's something that's worth celebrating."

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