Improving instream flow protection in the West : an evaluation of strategies with an analysis of Oregon's program Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/s1784p995

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  • In the American West keeping water instream to protect fish and wildlife, recreation, and water quality is in direct conflict with traditional water laws. While most western states have established instream flow protection programs, protection has been hindered by the basic tenet of the prior appropriation doctrine, first in time, first in right. This allows senior appropriators to fulfill their rights without regard for streamflows. Methods to improve instream flow protection include proposals to reallocate water rights with early priority dates. The purpose of this research was to analyze existing and proposed streamf low protection strategies to determine which are the most effective and to recommend strategies which can be used to improve protection in the West. Methodologies used included an analysis of state statutes and policies to compare programs and application of a policy analysis model, adapted from Mazmanian and Sabatier, to identify the important factors of policy implementation. The comparison of programs demonstrated that states have different levels of protection with the most comprehensive programs in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. Recommended strategies such as marketing, planning, conservation and the public trust doctrine have been incorporated only to a limited extent. Oregon's program was examined in more detail and the policy analysis model was applied to it. The model revealed that Oregon's program lacks clear policy goals, adequate jurisdiction to reallocate flows and improvements are needed in the areas of agency integration, program coordination, and funding. Several proposals have been made to improve Oregon's program. Most of those proposals would address the major policy deficiencies, but would also impose substantial changes on existing water users. Consequently the proposals have generated significant opposition which has prevented their enactment. Efforts to revise Oregon's program should focus on improving the program deficiencies, but should also heed the concerns of water users. This can best be accomplished through local planning and market incentives. Each western state will need to develop individual programs, but much can be learned from Oregon's example. Achieving protection for instream flows will not be easy, but it can be facilitated through cooperation rather than confrontation.
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