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Water fee hikes go into effect without panel’s approval

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Lawmakers advanced Oregon’s new Integrated Water Resources Strategy by creating new programs and extending existing ones during the recently completed 2013 legislative session, according to an Oregon Water Resources Department official.

In a report to the Oregon Water Resources Commission Aug. 9, Brenda Bateman, public information officer for the department, characterized the session as “extremely busy for water, both on the policy and budget sides.”

Lawmakers added resources to the department, Bateman said, extended sunsets on programs due to expire, created a water supply development fund and increased water transaction fees in the session that ended July 8.

Bateman said that a late-session amendment to House Bill 2259, which authorized the department to increase fees, gave the department authority to enact the fee increases retroactive to July 1.

The new fee schedule includes a one-time 13 percent average increase over the most recent schedule for several dozen fees, including water right certificate fees, water use permits and water right transfers.

The amendment also put a July 1, 2017, sunset on the new fees. At that time, without further legislative action, fees would revert back to the most recent schedule.

The late-session amendment removed a provision of the bill that authorized the department to increase fees 2 percent annually or at the rate of inflation, Bateman said.

In general, Bateman said the department fared well in the first session since the state adopted its long-term strategy for dealing with water.

“Recommendations coming out of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy fared very well this session, not only for our agency, but for our sister agencies as well,” Bateman said.

The Oregon Water Resources Commission met Aug. 8-9 in Baker City.

Source:  http://www.capitalpress.com/content/ML-OR-Water-Fees-081613

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