MADRAS, OR -- A federal judge in Eugene will hear a challenge, next week, to how several Central Oregon irrigation districts manage water in the Upper Deschutes River. WaterWatch of Oregon filed a lawsuit claiming the districts are taking too much water and harming the endangered spotted frog.
Mike Britton, Director of the North Unit Irrigation District in Madras, tells KBND News the suit could deal a real blow to the local agriculture community. "The devastating part is North Unit is a junior water-rights holder on the river, and a significant supply to our farmers and patrons is Wickiup Reservoir. If we are unable to tap into Wickiup, or if it's drained for whatever reason, we don't have water to deliver to our farmers and patrons." He adds, "We are predominantly an ag based economy and community, and any modifications in the system - the system being our storage at Wickiup and our ability to tap into that storage - would impact North Unit and the community significantly."
WaterWatch is seeking higher river flows in the winter and lower flows in the summer. They claim there's not enough water in the river and low flows are harming the spotted frog. Britton says farmers are nervous about the outcome of the lawsuit. "People are genuinely concerned about their livelihood and their lives. The uncertainty that all this brings; it's springtime and farmers are ready to get into fields and do the work and get ready for plantings, and watering and summer. They're not doing that because they're just uncertain that there will be enough water to carry out the farming operations that they need to do to make a living."
Click HERE to read more about the suit. A hearing is scheduled in Eugene for Tuesday, March 22.