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Know the West

Who's who in water spreading


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Water for the taking.

WaterWatch, based in Portland, is one of the nation's first statewide groups focused solely on water quantity, rather than water quality. It has filed legal challenges to Oregon's system of issuing water-use permits, which, says founder Tom Simmons, has turned over almost all of the state's river water to irrigators, leaving numerous rivers dry throughout the summer. The result is badly depleted salmon and trout fisheries in a state where these resources once flourished. For more information, contact executive director Jeff Curtis, 503/295-4039.

The Seattle office of American Rivers fights to preserve salmon runs throughout the Northwest. Every year, the group publishes its list of the most endangered river systems in North America. Contact attorney Katherine Ransel or Lorraine Bodi, 206/545-7133.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation ceded 6.4 million acres to the U.S. government in an 1855 treaty, but reserved Umatilla River water and the exclusive rights to hunt and fish on its 158,000 acre reservation east of Pendleton. Tribal officials say that the allocation of the Umatilla River to irrigators destroyed the river's salmon runs, thereby abrogating the treaty. They are fighting to restore the salmon and preserve their water rights. Contact Chairman Donald Sampson, 503/276-3165.

The San Francisco office of the Natural Resources Defense Council has been working with the Northwest power industry for more than a decade on conservation and salmon issues. It is seeking solutions to the water-spreading problem in an effort to secure more water for fish. Contact Karen Garrison, director, NRDC Northwest Water Project, 415/777-0220.

The Oregon Water Resources Congress, established in 1912 to protect water rights and promote water conservation, helps irrigators retain water now under question in the water spreading debate. Its members include irrigation and other water districts serving more than 30,000 irrigators and public agencies. Contact executive director Jan Boettcher, 503/363-0121.