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Sometimes a Great Notion: Oregon’s Instream Flow Experiments

 

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Abstract

Oregon has been a pioneer in adopting legislation to protect instream flows, beginning with waterfall protection statutes early in the twentieth century, followed by a mid-century water code overhaul designed to protect minimum streamflows, and culminating in explicit legislative recognition of instream water rights in 1987. Other states in the western United States have looked to Oregon as a model, even though Oregon’s various experiments have not always achieved the goals of protecting and restoring flowing water. Recently, however, the experiments have begun to show tangible results—and more importantly, results that are being replicated outside of Oregon. This Article examines key events and statutory enactments in Oregon’s streamflow protection history, evaluates their successes and failures, and explores how the most workable devices for protecting streamflows are spreading through the Pacific Northwest and beyond. 

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