Planning for Rogue Basin drought resiliency

State water resources managers are coming to Medford Wednesday to hear how Rogue River Basin residents want to see the basin's drought resiliency improved amid upcoming land-use changes here and expected changes to the climate.

The Oregon Water Resources Department is in the midst of its first update to 2012's inaugural Integrated Water Resources Strategy, which outlines goals for managing surface water and groundwater, and seeks out projects that could improve and protect water volume and access.

Oregon Water Resources Department is holding open houses around the state, looking for public input as it updates the 2012 plan. The Medford meeting will be held at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave., from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The strategy is due to be updated in late 2017, and it comes after Gov. Kate Brown's order last July directing state agencies to work on building drought-resilience with a nod to climate change.

"It's about, 'How do we move from today forward with more people and the same amount of water in a changing landscape?' " Jackson County Watermaster Travis Kelly says.

The Medford meeting is the fifth of seven open houses planned around Oregon. Attendees will hear information about the 2012 strategy, what has been developed since then and where the state is heading.

The update is required by 2009 state legislation that created the strategy. Other participants are the Oregon agencies overseeing fish and wildlife, environmental quality and agriculture.

The update comes after three years of drought, during which the state has expanded efforts to improve the monitoring of groundwater and surface water, says Elyssa Mucken, the strategy's coordinator at OWRD.

"Population growth is a big issue area for us, as are changing climate and land use," Mucken says.

The strategy also looks at doable projects to improve things such as water-delivery efficiency.

"We're thinking long-term, but we are taking a phased-in approach to implementation," Mucken says.

The strategy is different than the locally led WISE Project, which stands for Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy. However, WISE's collaborative effort among local stakeholders ranging from farmers and ranchers to water- and fish-conservation interests parallels the state strategy, Mucken says.

"WISE is locally led, and it certainly complements many of the recommendations of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy," Mucken says.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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