Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s used Friday’s unveiling of his budget proposal to introduce what he’s calling his “Healthy Environments” priorities for 2013-15.
Based on how Kitzhaber wants to allocate $839 million for the state’s environmental agencies and initiatives, those priorities include finding new ways to meet the water needs of irrigators and the environment, limiting the ill effects of pesticides, converting more trees on public land into job-sustaining timber for lumber mills, and expanding a state forest in Central Oregon.
The Democratic governor’s budget proposal devotes 1 percent of the state’s total expenditures to natural resources agencies — a big reason most of the attention Friday focused on the much bigger shares proposed for education, human services, public safety, public employee compensation.
$237 million in support of what the governor is calling his “Healthy Environments” priorities would come from the state’s general fund, also about 1 percent of total general fund spending. Federal funding, license and user fees, and other revenue streams would make up the difference.
Funding for land use planning, environmental quality programs, natural resource agencies, and parks and recreation wouldn’t change much under the governor’s budget.
New proposals include $24.3 million dollars for an Integrated Water Resources Strategy. Richard Whitman, the governor’s natural resources advisor, says some of those funds will be used to create multipurpose water storage and conservation projects, modeled after a successful program in Washington state.
The Washington program pays for a broad range of projects like piped irrigation, which can conserve water for agricultural use while also restoring in stream flow for fish. Whitman says the effort to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers in the Umatilla Basin using winter flows from the Columbia River is another model of the type of water resource project the governor plans to fund with the new pot of money.
The budget also includes:
- Cuts to state funding for invasive weed control.
- An increase in funding for agricultural water quality monitoring and pesticide monitoring
- Including $1.3 million to expand the state’s pesticide stewardship program.
- Roughly $10 million so the state can acquire 25,754 acres to complete the purchase of the Gilchrist State Forest, near La Pine.
- $4.5 million to support forest collaboratives to help supply timber to mills in Central and Eastern Oregon.
- $1.6 million to support efforts to provide timber from the BLM’s O & C forests.