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Instream Transfer

Oregon’s instream transfer program provides a voluntary means to protect streamflows permanently or on a time-limited basis to aid restoration efforts by transferring out-of-stream surface water rights instream to provide instream flows for fish and wildlife, improved water quality and recreation.  Many existing surface water rights are eligible to be transferred to instream use permanently or on a time limited basis. However, to transfer a water right to instream use, the transfer must not result in enlargement or injury to other existing water rights. Certificates and court decreed rights for use of surface water are eligible for transfer to instream use.

Permanent Instream Transfer

Unlike instream leases and time-limited instream transfers, as the name implies a Permanent Instream Transfer provides for permanent flow restoration and results in the issuance of an instream water right certificate, which is held in trust by the Department.

Time-Limited Instream Transfer

A Time-Limited Instream Transfer is a transfer that allows a water right holder to change the water right to an instream use but not permanently. The Time-Limited Instream Transfer program is similar to instream leasing in that the water right holder forgoes the use of the water right at the original place of use for a period of time, and the water is protected instream for the duration or term of the instream transfer. Like instream leases, at the end of the term of the time-limited instream transfer, the water right reverts back to its original use. However, it differs from instream leases, in that it can be for any length of time, for example 10, 20, 50 or more years. Time-limited instream transfers are generally used for periods of time exceeding five years; for five years or less, the instream leasing process is the preferred option. The time-limited instream transfer can also be customized so that when certain conditions are met, such as a change in ownership, the transfer can be terminated and the use of water reverts back to its original use and place of use. Unlike instream leases, time-limited instream transfers cannot be unwound if injury or enlargement is found after they have been approved. Consequently, time-limited instream transfers, like all transfers, go through a more rigorous review than instream leases.