December 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

A bill introduced in Congress Thursday seeks to authorize $32 million in federal funds to rehabilitate the Wallowa Lake Dam and improve the management of the Wallowa River Basin.

Sen. Gordon Smith and Congressman Greg Walden, both Republicans, introduced the legislation for funding in the U.S., Senate and House of Representatives. The funds would be authorized for use by the Bureau of Reclamation, if approved.

The funding would implement the already identified goals of the Wallowa Valley Water Management Plan.

This bill is a balanced proposal to make improvements both to Wallowa Lake Dam and water management in the Wallowa River Basin, Walden said. It will benefit local agriculture, salmon recovery efforts, flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, and hydropower generation.

A federal investment in this project is vitally needed to repair structural deficiencies in the Wallowa Lake Dam, which prevent the lake from being filled to capacity. The hard-working people of Wallowa County need and deserve these improvements. Walden added.

The Smith-Walden legislation is being supported by the Associated Ditch Company, the Grande Ronde Model Watershed Program and the Nez Perce Tribe.

These improvements are desperately needed, and the community has much to gain with rehabilitation, Smith said.