The Area of Origin and a Columbia River Diversion

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Washington Law Review, Vol: 46, Page: 245

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Johnson, Ralph W.
Columbia River; Water Law
article description
In 1968 Congress declared a ten-year moratorium on any study of diversion of Columbia River water to the Southwest. One of the reasons for the moratorium was to give residents of the Pacific Northwest time to analyze their region's water needs to determine if "surplus" waters are available for export, and to establish, in a broader sense, a regional policy towards diversion proposals. This article assumes a neutral stance towards the ultimate issue of diversion and attempts only to analyze the problem of protecting the area of origin in the event of a Columbia River to Southwest interbasin water transfer.Out-of-basin exports of water are not novel in this country. Many such transfers are being made on different rivers throughout the western United States. However, no project transfers water into a state lying entirely outside the basin of origin. This suggests both the novel nature of the Columbia River diversion proposal, and the special impact that state borders have had on national water planning. The concern of the Pacific Northwest for the potential future damage to the region is not unique; many areas of origin have expressed such concern, and many have undertaken to assure "protection" for their future development in the event the waters exported do not remain "surplus" to the region.This study will attempt to answer six questions: (1) what is an area of origin? (2) what intrastate solutions have been designed to protect areas of origin? (3) what interstate precedents exist for protecting areas of origin? (4) who will make the decision on the question of diversion and formulate the policy affecting areas of origin? (5) what methods has Congress considered for protecting areas of origin? (6) how effective are the present proposals for protecting areas of origin?