State wants to charge a fee to use your own well

Oregonians In Action

If you live in a rural area and use well water, you need to pay close attention to the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD).

In a recently released internal memo prepared by WRD staff, the WRD plans to ask the 2013 Oregon Legislature to approve an “exempt use well fee” that would be charged for every rural Oregon farmer, rancher, or rural homeowner using a domestic well. The amount of the fee is not listed – you can rest assured it will be the maximum that the WRD believes the legislature will approve.

The purpose of the fee is to “secure stable funding for water resource management.” In other words, the WRD doesn’t want to rely on the state’s general fund revenues (primarily from Oregon income taxes) for their funding. Instead, they want to charge every rural Oregonian a fee to pay for their activities.

The WRD certainly performs some important duties. However, ensuring that water is properly used in Oregon is a benefit to all Oregonians, not just rural well users. Why is it that the WRD thinks that only rural homeowners should pay for the cost of their programs?

This is especially true given that the WRD staff has grown by nearly 20% in the last decade, while the number of new domestic wells have been cut in half. When WRD complains that they don’t have enough money in these tough economic times, someone needs to remind them that they must be doing okay, if they’ve been able to add so many new employees to the state payroll.

And if the number of new wells is going down, that means properties with existing wells would have to pay an even bigger fee to fund a department that keeps growing and growing, even during a major economic downturn.

In short, it is simply unfair to demand that one type of water user pay for the entire cost of an agency that doesn’t want to rely on the legislature for funding. Every rural property owner pays their fair share of taxes to fund the WRD – they shouldn’t have to pay more than people who live in the city.

Keep an eye out for legislation in 2013 that implements the WRD plan. We need to stop that legislation in its tracks.


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