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25th Anniversary Event—Instream Water Rights Act

May 12, 2012
 
Thank you for inviting Cylvia and me to join you tonight to celebrate something that we both care deeply about: Oregon’s great rivers.
 
Twenty-five years ago, many of you in this room, and many who are no longer with us, came together to produce a remarkable achievement that, at its heart, recognized that maintaining our instream flows is essential to a healthy river, and that maintaining healthy rivers is essential to Oregonians’ quality of life.
 
The Instream Water Rights Act of 1987 was and is a landmark for the state. I was in the Senate then, and I was proud to help champion the passage of the bill. 
 
I was fortunate to have a lot of passionate, smart, and articulate people, including many with Water Watch, working hard to make this possible. People like Water Watch founders Tom and Audrey Simmons, who really helped articulate the radical concept, and now legal reality, that leaving water instream is a beneficial use of water. 
 
After tireless effort from so many of you, once we were done in 1987, letting a river be a river finally had a place in Oregon’s water code. 
 
And because of your work over the past 25 years, Oregon has restored more than one billion gallons of water per day instream for fish and wildlife, recreation, and pollution abatement. 
 
In fact, our state is a national leader in flow restoration. By partnering with entities like the Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program, The Freshwater Trust, Deschutes River Conservancy, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust and countless willing landowners and water right holders, Oregon’s Water Resources Department has approved more volume instream than the states of Montana, Idaho, and Washington combined.
 
By passing the Act, Oregon created the nation’s first water trust.  Our Department of Fish & Wildlife advanced instream water right applications to protect flows for fish, while water right holders have had greater economic options available to them.
 
Put another way, by passing the Act, we’ve been able to produce wins that would have otherwise been difficult, if not impossible, for Oregon’s rivers, fish, and economy.
 
This year, Oregon is moving ahead with its first ever Integrated Water Resources Strategy. I had the opportunity recently to thank the stakeholder group and agencies for their work on this plan. 
 
This strategy addresses many issues, but chief among them is meeting instream and out-of-stream needs for the State. Our economic success must not come at the expense of our environmental success.   
 
The ability to put and protect water instream is a core component of Oregon's water future. We have work that still needs to be done, issues to address. We also have new opportunities to advance meaningful instream flow gains in the Klamath, Crooked, and Willamette basins and others. Thanks to the Act, we now have better defined economic value and markets associated with water instream, and this helps us pursue creative approaches to address remaining instream needs. 
 
Through the Integrated Water Resources Strategy and other mechanisms, my staff, agencies and I are committed to advancing the work I just mentioned. But for now, please join me in applauding everyone associated with the creation of Oregon’s Instream Water Rights Act 25 ago and those who continue to give it life today.

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