“Perfect Balance”?

On January 12 the Center for Biological Diversity announced their intent to sue the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation over the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. Shortly thereafter, the Bulletin published a column I wrote agreeing that the HCP has flaws but questioning the CBD for claiming that there are better solutions “that would help the frog and provide assurances to farmers down the road” without stating what they might be. Frankly, I am tired of environmental groups pointing out problems, which are real, without proposing solutions. I proposed a solution in my column. It has been an interesting few weeks since then.

I was personally attacked in a letter published by the paper for my views by someone who also stated that we taxpayers need provide irrigators with more subsidies. Then, on Feb. 5, this half page ad filled with disinformation was published by a local group of irrigators calling themselves “Perfect Balance”. They claim that the Endangered Species Act is being weaponized by “radical environmental groups”, the result of which is putting our Central Oregon way of life in jeopardy. The truth is that the US Fish & Wildlife Service, not environmental groups, listed the Oregon Spotted Frog as an endangered species. USFWS, not environmental groups, is requiring more water in the Upper Deschutes in the winter. The ad is filled with other examples of disinformation and does not give a single example of a solution. They claim that “with a common-sense approach and modern technology, we can conserve, utilize, and distribute our most precious resource – water – all while maintaining a healthy ecosystem” without explaining what that approach might be.

In response, long time Bend resident and river rights advocate Craig Lacy had a column published on Feb. 9, titled “Destroying the upper Deschutes is not a ‘perfect balance’“. Obviously, I loved it. Craig and I think similarly and, to his credit, Craig also proposed a solution.

Today, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity had a column in the Bulletin titled “Finding balance in the Deschutes must include farmers and frogs“. It outlined their case for filing a notice of intent to sue. Along with the usual list of HCP shortcomings, they mention something that does not get talked about enough: exporting local water. In short, if you export a locally grown crop you are in essence exporting local water, but that’s the topic of another discussion. I agree with the CBD that the current canal piping plan may be too little and too late to save the frog. CBD writes, “there are other options that weren’t included in the plan, but which could help both the frog and the area’s farmers. That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reopen the Endangered Species Act process and find actual solutions to the problems facing the Deschutes River”.

What are those options? I participated in the multi-year Deschutes Basin Study Workgroup and am a member of the Deschutes Basin Water Collaborative. I think I’m pretty knowledgeable about the available options. What is the CBD proposing? It’s a cop-out for Perfect Balance or the Center for Biological Diversity to simply say something better has to be done without providing well-considered alternative solutions. Many people have been searching for them for many years.