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Selling Water to Fund State Programs

Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon is expressing shock! and indignation! at a new plan floated by Oregon Republicans: selling water to water-starved states like Nevada and California (though interestingly, his link to the Republicans’ “Leadership Fund” doesn’t mention the plan at all). He quotes Jeff Mapes at the OregonLive blogs:

David Nelson, R-Pendleton, who convinced the Senate R caucus to take up this idea, insists that times have changed and that Oregon could be a Saudi Arabia of water. “We wouldn’t allow them to take it,” he says of other regions. “We would sell it to them.” And he adds that it could make the kind of profits that will help support a level of state services that the taxpayers aren’t willing to fund.

Mapes points out that there are several problems with the plan, not the least of which is that Oregon is already embroiled in all sorts of water-rights litigation involving Native tribes, farmers, and fishermen. Such criticisms are certainly fair and, as the continuing controversies surrounding the Columbia and Klamath flows illustrate, the issues involved are delicate and often intractable.

Chisholm, on the other hand, seems to feel that the idea itself is beyond comprehension, having little to add aside from


You can’t make this stuff up.

Perhaps Kari Chisholm is unaware that the Bonneville Power Administration already sells massive amounts of hydroelectric power from the Columbia to neighboring states and that California already gets huge amounts of water from sources like the Colorado River, which has experienced increasingly smaller flows as places like Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico (which is legally entitled to part of the Colorado River flow), to say nothing of California itself, require increasingly large amounts of water to sustain growth.

Or perhaps he does know that electricity generated by the BPA is consumed in other parts of the country and is simply under the same misapprehension as one of the people posting in his comments section and believes that BPA power is simply given away free to people outside the Pacific Northwest rather than being put to good use near where the power is generated.

Either way, and admitting that there are some real potential issues that arise if we start selling water to California and elsewhere, why does Chisholm think that the plan is so utterly beyond the pale? If the water can be spared without endangering fish runs and Tribal fishing rights, etc., one fails to see how making up for budget shortfalls by selling water is supposedly so outrageous.

After all, we all know that the budget isn’t going to shrink itself since taxpayers aren’t terribly excited about taking even more money out of their pockets and the government isn’t willing to alienate interest groups by cutting programs. It’s clear we can’t rely forever on Band-Aid measures like Federal timber payments, so if a profit can be made using some of Oregon’s natural resources, and it can be done without endangering other interests that Oregonians have decided are important (fish runs, etc.), it seems incredibly short-sighted to pass up that opportunity.


Then again, maybe Kari Chisholm was too caught up in basically calling Gordon Smith a fatty poo-poo head to be bothered to write anything more substantial about potential plans to exploit Oregon’s natural resources.

  1. Sakaki says:

    Oh. My.

    Rockne has proven to be one of the best.

  2. Rockne Roll says:

    Oh Kari, I may be a gun-slinging, beer-swilling, no good dirty youngin’, but you are literally the worst writer ever. Also, you either have no conceptualization of the word “fat” or self-aggrandize to the extent that you have departed from reality. Which would be a logical explanation for some of your public policy views.

  3. CJ Ciaramella says:

    Aww, thanks, Kari. For all the fist-shaking I send towards Blue Oregon, it’s the only liberal Oregon blog I consistently read. And we do share some common ground on the subject of beer.

  4. Kari Chisholm says:

    p.s. I spoke at the Tigard Rotary last week about how the internet is changing politics.

    One of the questions was “Which blogs should Republicans read?” (Duh, the Tigard Rotary…)

    My recommendation: The Oregon Commentator.

    For what it’s worth… (not much.)

  5. Kari Chisholm says:

    a fatty poo-poo head…

    You said it. Not me.


  6. Vincent says:

    I would guess that the bulk of the water would come from the Columbia, rather than the Klamath.

    Also, I would guess that most of the water would be collected toward the mouth of the river, rather than further upstream. This would make sense since a) it would be easier to collect it without having to navigate the rivers b) it wouldn’t really have any effect on stream flow (the big concern with salmon) because the mouth is, obviously, at the terminus of the river. Taking water near the mouth won’t have the same effects on spawning grounds as, say, dams do (since dams impede both fish movement and water flow).

    In any case, there are good arguments both for and against the whole idea, but Kari Chisholm seems either ignorant or uninterested in any of them. As far as I can tell, his opposition has more to do with the fact that the plan originated from Republicans than anything else.

    It’s also true that places like Phoenix and Los Angeles use up way more water than they should — the whole idea of planting subdivisions in the middle of the Arizona desert, complete with a nice, green lawn and everything is patently absurd. On the other hand, it’s not as if, say, Los Angeles is a net drain on the country, at least economically speaking. The real challenge is to start to change expectations about what living there entails.

    If Inuits have to get used to not having nice, warm, sandy beaches and Mississippians have to get used to stifling humidity, then at some point, Californians are going to have to get more used to the actual climatic conditions in the places that they live.

    You can bet your boots that if they start buying water from the Columbia and it has to be shipped or piped to California, it’s not going to be cheap. As population continues to increase and as subdivision sizes continue to increase, demand will also increase, and there’s a practical limit as to how much water can feasibly be sold to desert states. Eventually, utility prices will rise to the point that keeping a golf course-grade lawn out in front of the house takes too much out of the pocketbook. Witness the steady drop in gasoline consumption and SUV sales as gas prices have gone up.

  7. Chris Holman says:

    I think the problem could lie in contractual obligations. Perhaps it makes sense on a year-to-year basis, but selling water you are PLANNING on having often ends up pretty bad (see: Colorado River).

    Personally, I think these water-deprived areas need to just slowly go away.

    Even IF they got some water, it’s only a band-aid on the larger issue: they live in a desert.

    But yeah, I could see the protests as Klamath Salmon die off and water is shipped off to Tonepah, NV for profit.

    It would also depend on how much water they were looking at selling.

  8. Vincent says:

    My thoughts exactly.

  9. T says:

    So, wait, Kari Chisholm — Kari Fucking Chisholm — said that Gordon Smith had let himself go and gotten fat?

    Does the man not own a mirror?

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