December 21, 2018
Oregon Water Coalition Members:
The Oregon Water Coalition (OWC) was founded 25 years ago with the mission of promoting "the responsible development, conservation, and utilization of water in northeastern Oregon". This mission drove OWC to be an active force in facilitating the spread of information, most notably through annual meetings that bring local water users together to learn from experts in the field. Information can also be found on our website and social media.
Since OWC was formed, other organizations with similar missions have emerged in the region. The SAGE Center is now an accessible source of agriculture information for locals and visitors. The Northeast Oregon Water Association (NOWA) is working on behalf of local irrigators to pioneer innovative water solutions for the region. The Hermiston Chamber of Commerce actively supports its members, including a large number of agriculture related businesses. Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC) boasts a state-of-the-art teaching facility on the OSU Extension HAREC campus to train the next generation in precision irrigation. The Eastern Oregon Women's Coalition (EOWC) fosters conversations about the rural-urban divide by providing tours and educational connections across the state.
For the past few years, there have been many conversations about the specific purpose of owe and how it can remain relevant 25 years after its founding. The organization was reinvigorated when it hired a coordinator, Marika Sitz, to run day-to-day operations and expand educational efforts. In 2018, owe introduced two water rights workshops, established an online newsletter and worked with various partner organizations on outreach related projects for the Umatilla Basin. The added bonus for Marika and the region is that the coordinator role provided a foundation that will inform her law school studies. The coordinator position has remained open since Marika left for law school in August, 2018.
Today, with a renewed mission and higher level of activity, owe remains dependent upon grants and other donations. owe recognizes that many of its members and supporters contribute to other organizations. OWC does not want to compete with other worthy organizations, however, owe seeks to preserve the legacy of its educational and outreach in water and agriculture.
To sustain funding, owe once again is requesting that members renew and donate additional funds as they are able. Those funds will continue to be used for operations and also as seed money to fund a scholarship for young professionals like Marika who enter graduate programs that will train them to represent water interests of our region. The goal of the scholarship fund is to incentivize the next generation of lawyers, policy makers, and researchers to live and work in Eastern Oregon. OWC has taken several steps to ensure the spirit of the organization can thrive. We remain committed to providing educational opportunities about water issues. We want to say than you and we appreciate your renewed membership and your continued support.
Ray Kopacz, OWC President
Letter from our former Coordinator and current scholarship recipient
After spending one and a half years as coordinator of the Oregon Water Coalition, I began law school at the University of Oregon School of Law this past August. As I write this, I am one week away from completing my first semester. I considered attending law school for many years, and I am very fortunate to have OWC's support as I work toward my goal of becoming an attorney.
I became the coordinator of OWC in January 2017, about a year and a half after graduating from Stanford University with an undergraduate degree in Human Biology. I still wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do at that point, but my interest in the American West-particularly the water and agricultural aspects-drove much of my work. I was born and raised in Pendleton, and I jumped at the opportunity to return to my home region to join OWC. My goal was to gain more "on-the ground" experience to inform my decision about pursing water and natural resources law. My experience proved to be immensely valuable, and my time at OWC played a critically important role in shaping my understanding of water and natural resource issues in northeastern Oregon.
For the past four months, I have been taking the full slate of required core classes for first year law students. In addition, I am also a fellow for the Oceans, Coasts and Watersheds Project, which is housed in the Environmental and Natural Resources Center at the law school. This fellowship has proven to be a good opportunity to remain connected to my water interest. I also think it provides an important chance to share my own perspectives and experiences with my project group. Some of my preliminary projects have included compiling statutory and program information for OWRD' s Place-Based Planning Program and organizing conference panels to present diverse perspectives on water and agriculture issue in Oregon.
My purpose in writing this note is to provide an update and also to briefly illustrate how my time at OWC helped shape my path. OWC gave me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of the practice area I am interested in pursuing. Additionally, it continues to support my goals with the award of a multi-year scholarship, which offsets a portion of my tuition costs each semester. I owe a huge measure of gratitude to the Oregon Water Coalition for supporting my educational journey in two settings: "on the ground" as coordinator of OWC and my current academic undertaking.
Finally, I would like to note the great potential of this arrangement to support future leaders in Umatilla Basin in northeastern Oregon. I think young attorneys, administrators, or policy makers who want to return to Eastern Oregon can also benefit from an arrangement like mine. I think rural Oregon has a great deal to offer, and the ability of OWC to further incentivize future leaders to work in the region will help ensure that talented individuals with an interest in agriculture, water, and natural resources management return to and stay on the eastern side of the state.