Speculation is high that Oregon has, for the first time, begun formal exploration into the feasibility of sending surplus water from the Columbia River south to thirsty California. The success of the recently announced giant wind farm has water export proponents salivating at the chance to tap just a small portion of the average 265,000 cubic feet of water per second that slips by Oregon, unused but for power generation, fish habitat and limited shipping.
Closed-door sessions have been held privately in recent months to discuss the very future of the Columbia River as we know it today. People have been asking for Oregon’s water for a long time. In 1990 Kenneth Hahn, an LA County Supervisor, formally requested water from Oregon via pipe to offset the severe water shortages they were experiencing. Then governor Neil Goldschmidt said no to the request, as did then Washington governor Booth Gardner.
Oh, how times have changed. With Oregon now leading the way in green power exports with the proposed Shepherds’ Flat Wind Farm, many around the state see the opportunity to export water as the next logical export. Raymond Branxton, a leading proponent of the plan to export water, said recently, “Why wouldn’t we do this? Our state is one of the worst in the entire nation in unemployment and in shortages of state revenue. This extra water, and there is extra, believe me, is like gold or oil. Billions of dollars are at stake. And every single hour we simply watch as over six billion gallons of water goes by, untapped, and empties into the vast Pacific Ocean. I say tap it and tap it now. I am talking with government officials on a regular basis.”
It is estimated that Oregon could supply California with approximately 8 billion gallons of water each day without any deleterious effect on either the environment or shipping. That amount of water could easily end, forever, the shortages that have plagued Southern California for decades. At the same time, jobs and revenue would flow into Oregon in numbers never seen before. It is estimated that at least 7,000 new temporary jobs would be created to construct the pipe and that 125 permanent jobs would be created in maintaining the pipe and pumps needed to supply the water. Revenue for this water, at current California rates, could easily top six million dollars per day or more. “That is over two billion dollars of revenue per year for Oregon for something that costs Oregon nothing,” noted Branxton.
“How anyone could oppose this in times like these is a mystery to me,” exclaimed Branxton at a recent secret meeting to discuss water export. “The pipe can go right next to the power lines and we can run the pumps with the wind power. It is simply amazing to me that we have not moved forward on this much sooner. Goldschmidt is long gone — maybe our next governor will have the foresight to put this much-needed plan into place,” Branxton predicted.