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Success of OWEB's programs, budget allocation in context of state funding crisis

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Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, notes the value of Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board natural resources initiatives, and notes their significance in light of the state's budget crisis.

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - WITT As you may know, House District 31 includes all of Columbia County, rural NW Multnomah County, including Sauvie Island, and a lot of Forest Park, and almost half of Washington County. It is a district rich in natural resources, with miles of streams, river banks and forested habitat. 

We couldn't live in a more beautiful part of the state. 

Last week, in my Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources, we reviewed the budget for the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), and I wanted to share some of the information that was covered because it bears directly on the care and maintenance of a huge portion of District 31.

Since 1999, OWEB has provided funding to support local capacity for watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts and other local restoration partners.They focus on the use of scientific criteria to jointly decide what needs to be done to conserve and improve the natural habitat where we live, and their funds are derived from the Oregon Lottery, federal dollars and salmon license plate revenue.

For the last 18 years, OWEB has provided more than 8,200 grants to local volunteer efforts, keeping Oregon's water clean and habitats healthy. About 67 percent of the funds invested go directly to on-the-ground improvements of land and water such as native plantings, dam removals, irrigation efficiencies, streams and rivers made accessible to fish, and land protected for future generations. The other 33 percent supports related activities such as project design, watershed workshops and field experiences for K-12 students and adults, and data collection before and after the project to determine effectiveness.

To give you an idea of what has been spent in terms of local dollars since 1999, here is the breakdown for my three counties:

¦ Columbia County — $8,502,141

¦ Multnomah County — $11,363,560

¦ Washington County — $4,263,789

What did we get for our money? 

Adding up all three counties, restoration projects have improved about 420 miles of streams, 216 miles of fish habitat, 1,556 upland habitat acres and 3,048 wetland or estuarine habitat acres. Not only does OWEB improve the landscape, every $1 million of public investment creates 15-24 jobs, and more than 90 cents out of every grant dollar is spent at local businesses and suppliers. 

In reviewing this agency's budget, it is encouraging to me that it has a positive record of accomplishment in my district. Our subcommittee will continue to review this budget, and others before us, prior to making any allocations. 

It will not be an easy task given the budget crisis that we are in.

Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, represents House District 31. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..