AOC has strongly supported the recovery of critical professional staff at the Water Resources Department (WRD), requests for water supply development funds, and technical and financial support for local place-based planning to be convened by counties. The 78th Legislative Assembly answered in a very big way!
Legislative actions this session resulted in the following (but see caveat below):
- WRD now has the authority to provide communities with the initial financial capacity to cover facilitation, logistical, and technical costs of place-based (local) integrated water resources planning. This includes costs of determining water needs, acquiring necessary information, identifying and understanding future scenarios, evaluating alternatives, and ultimately developing a strategy for how the community intends to address its water needs. There is an appropriation for one full-time WRD staff position for initial implementation of place-based planning.
- WRD has lottery bonding authority, with $750,000 of the proceeds appropriated to implement the authority described in #1.
- WRD received general fund appropriations for three permanent full-time positions for a water supply engineer and two planning coordinators to help further water resources development projects. Staff will do outreach and active consulting on technical, permitting, and engineering questions with individuals and local governments as well as coordinating financing opportunities.
- A county government may apply to WRD for a grant for 50 percent of the cost of a study of the feasibility or viability of a water supply project. WRD has an appropriation for a full-time administrator of feasibility grants to help you. WRD has $2 million available for the grants from general funds and lottery bonds, with a cap of $500,000 for a single grant.
- WRD has lottery bonding authority of $6.25 million to the Water Supply Development Account and $11 million to the Water Supply Fund. The proceeds are for grants and loans to evaluate, plan and develop statewide water storage systems and delivery infrastructure, conservation and reuse projects, or provide access to new water supplies, in compliance with the Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy. The Umatilla Basin is specifically referenced as an intended recipient of the Water Supply Fund moneys.
- WRD has general obligation bonding authority of $30 million to revitalize the loan program funded by the constitutional Water Development Loan Fund. This will provide additional financing options for water projects.
Note, however, that the bonds are anticipated to be issued at the end of the 2015-17 biennium. There will be opportunities for WRD to borrow against anticipated revenues, so that progress can be made during this biennium.
It is unfortunate that these correct policy choices were at least in part influenced by the four-years-old-and-counting drought. But water supply developme