‘Water is everything here’ - The Daily Barometer: News

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‘Water is everything here’

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 9:19 pm

Hermiston City Council approves OSU extension center’s annexation, allows for center to use city’s water.

Where there’s water, things will grow.

New land annexation allows for more agriculture research at Oregon State University’s Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center.

Farmers depend on the agricultural research center to obtain the latest information on the problems within their crops that they seek to remedy.

HAREC’s mission is to provide new research-based information to support the high-value irrigated agricultural region where the center is located.

“This is not just an agricultural production area,” said Phil Hamm, station director of HAREC and professor emeritus in the department of botany and plant pathology at OSU. “It’s one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.”

HAREC supports nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated agriculture in Oregon and Washington’s Columbia Basin.  

For more than a century, the extension center has worked in close collaboration with farmers in the greater Hermiston area. In a forward-thinking move, HAREC actively pursues water resources in order to better support the agricultural industry. 

Being considered a part of the urban growth boundary allowed HAREC to request to be annexed into the city ordinance. 

The Hermiston City Council approved the annexation of HAREC on Monday. This annexation allows HAREC to be considered within city limits.

According to Hamm, the City of Hermiston had an excess of water resources available that has been previously allocated for industrial use. Now, this water can be used for agricultural purposes. 

“We can take some of that water if we are part of the city, and use it to expand the area that we can irrigate on the experiment station, thus increasing our land base by 25 percent,” Hamm said. “With this new annexation, we can do 25 percent more research in the future than we can do today.”

HAREC had approximately 160 acres prior to the annexation, according to Hamm. 

Now that HAREC has access to the city’s water supply, an additional 60 acres of land can be used to conduct more research. This land belongs to OSU and was previously unused. 

“Water is everything here,” Hamm said. 

The chief water source for North Morrow and Umatilla counties is the Columbia River. 

The Columbia River is one of the largest river systems in North America and only 7 percent of the river flow is used for irrigation.

In stark contrast to the Columbia River, 100 percent of the Colorado River’s flow is allocated to industry, agriculture and municipal uses, according to Hamm.

Hamm makes this comparison to show that the Columbia River has potential to provide more water.

HAREC has a vast array of researchers in many different fields in support of the local agricultural industry. 

Faculty researchers based at HAREC include potato and cereal breeders, crop entomologists, ecologists, plant pathologists and agronomists. 

“(Agriculture) is the industry in the area — it makes northern Morrow and Umatilla counties into what it is today,” Hamm said. “It’s really an exciting place to be.” 

Dacotah-Victoria Splichalova

Science reporter

managing@dailybarometer.com

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