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130 billion pints for fish

Right about the time that the streams and rivers in the Deschutes River Basin started to look a little dry, the summer 2007 issue of PERC Reports arrived and reminded me just how much progress has been made in the past ten years toward instream flow restoration using markets and incentives. No place is this more evident than in the Columbia Basin, where participants in the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program are facilitating large-scale reallocation of water rights utilizing the market approach long advocated by PERC. The Deschutes River Conservancy alone has secured close to 50,000 acre-feet of flow in 2007. If we were indeed buying drinks for our fishy friends, that would amount to a whopping 130 billion pints!

 —Scott McCaulou
Program Director
Deschutes River Conservancy

Keep ’em coming

As a former executive director of Trout Unlimited, and past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Chapter, I want to compliment [Brandon Scarborough] on his excellent cover story, “Buy That Fish A Drink.” As a long-time reader of PERC Reports and its predecessor publications, I found this to be one of the best issues…especially your cover story. Keep them coming.

Our newest regular feature in National Woodlands magazine is “Soil and Water…the Foundation of it All.” The quality of America’s water is largely based on the quality of our forests, most of which are private.

 —Keith A. Argow
National Woodland Owners Association

Tax incentives for water leasing

Bravo on the diverse coverage of water marketing efforts under way in the summer 2007 issue of PERC Reports. I appreciated the snapshot of various water transaction approaches that are keeping fish wet from the Pacific Northwest to Southern Australia. As a Montanan, I particularly identified with the water leasing examples from the Blackfoot watershed described by Laura Ziemer and Stan Bradshaw.

After working with ranchers on water right management on behalf of the Montana Water Trust, I’d like to emphasize the authors’ points on constraints to water leasing in Montana and the West. Water leases are currently not tax deductible, which acts as an obstacle for landowners who wish to donate all or a portion of their water rights to instream flow. These rights are valuable assets, and permanent donations of such assets for conservation benefits should be recognized by both the state and the federal government in the form of a tax incentive, similar to deductions available for conservation easements. This incentive would increase the demand for water leasing programs and also leave more funding for non-donated instream flow water transactions—in short, it would keep more streams flowing year round.

I would like to underscore the difficulty of water marketing when water rights themselves are not “secure, legally defined, and protected property rights,” as Daniel Benjamin wrote in “Tangents.” Due to the ongoing adjudication process in Montana and the lack of measuring devices on most of the state’s irrigation ditches, it is often difficult to monitor and enforce instream flow transfers. Hopefully, as water leasing evolves and gains momentum in Montana and the West, the states’ ability to protect these water rights matures as well.

 —Brianna Randall
Communications & Grants Director
Clark Fork Coalition


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