Senate Republicans announce plan to tap ‘Oregon Oil’

Press release from the Oregon Senate Republican Office

“In Alaska and Texas they have to drill for it. In Oregon, it falls from the sky.”

Salem, OR — Alaska and Texas have oil. Oregon has water. Senate Republicans want to manage Oregon’s most abundant and renewable resource as a new way to fund education, provide more affordable health care, keep Oregon’s streets safe and avoid raising taxes.

“The Columbia River represents a renewable resource that has the potential to keep taxes low and give our children a world-class education,” said Nelson. “Every day, millions of gallons of water pour into the ocean that could be sold to other states that desperately need our abundant water supply. The state revenue generated from utilizing this wasted resource could be used to lower Oregon’s class sizes, improve pay for teachers and create more opportunity at Oregon’s community colleges and universities.”

The Republican plan proposes selling excess water below the Bonneville Dam to states with declining water tables like Arizona or California. According to the Water Resources Department, of the 200 million acre feet that flow from the mouth of the Columbia River, 70 million acre feet of wasted water pour into the Ocean. After the needs of fish, tribes, power and irrigation are met, there is enough excess water below the Bonneville Dam to cover the entire state of Oregon with one foot of water.

Oregon currently extracts one-tenth of the amount of water Washington withdraws and less than one-tenth of the amount Idaho utilizes. If sold at a rate of one cent per gallon of water, $3,260 could be raised per acre foot. A mere 300,000 acre feet would raise $978 million.

“This is a resource we can’t afford to waste, for the sake of Oregon’s schools and universities,” said Nelson. “This is a chance to change the way we pay for government. Within current state law we can protect salmon and tribal values while creating a plentiful supply of water for Oregonians and others who need it. For Oregon families, that means more jobs, a more stable economy and more resources for classrooms.”

While demand for public services increase and available revenue decreases, new and innovative ways are needed to educate our children, provide more affordable healthcare and keep Oregon’s streets safe.