Governor candidates views on water

This blog does not talk about politics, but politicians certainly impact the way in which water is managed in our state. Last Sunday the Bend Bulletin had an interesting editorial which provided excerpts from interviews with the three major candidates for governor on the topic of water. I am thankful that the Bulletin has made water a focus area. I encourage you to read the excerpts if water is a factor in your governor selection process. Keep reading for my commentary on the candidate’s statements, if you are so inclined.

Christine Drazan denied that water laws in Oregon, written over 100 years ago at a time that bears almost no resemblance to the present, need updating. Her focus is on water availability for agriculture, which is certainly important, but environmental concerns were clearly secondary and recreational uses were never mentioned. Drazan is simply incorrect that we do not need to do a better job measuring water use. She also seems to be unfamiliar with the way in which the Oregon Department of Water Resources works and who they might be adversarial to. I did not understand her comment that we need to stand up to the federal government and assert states rights over water. What is she trying to accomplish?

Betsy Johnson stated unequivocally that water laws need to be changed, but never said to what end. What changes and who would they benefit? Johnson is correct that we have enough data on water use and availability now to make decisions while still needing to do a much better job on measuring and forecasting water use and availability. I wish she had talked about what outcomes she wants to accomplish, after reading the article I have no idea.

Like Drazan, Tina Kotek said that we need to do better managing water using existing laws. Kotek does seem to want a more balanced use of the water, however. I really struggle to understand how that can occur under the current legal framework of first in time, first in right, meaning whoever asked for the water first gets it regardless of the current need. Kotek believes that we need better data before we can make changes. How much longer do we have to gather that data? Her statement about not issuing any more water rights now rings hollow given that water is already over appropriated.

Clearly, water is one of many variables in determining who to vote for. I personally have not made up my mind. I am disappointed that none of them provided the answers I would have hoped for.