If radio host personality and occasional commissioner Cam Parry is trying to go out with a bang, his effort may have fizzled. Parry, who is prone to superlatives has been all in a lather about the county’s “substantial” water rights ever since he took office almost two years ago. The water right he is excited about is the Johnson Mill Pond and he has described it variously as the “second largest water right in Oregon”, to the “second largest water right in southern Oregon”, to merely “substantial”. The Johnson Mill Pond is the second largest water right in District 19 but at 491 acre feet hardly qualifies for any of the definitions given to it. With water valued between $25 and $200 per acre foot, depending upon region, demand and quality, the county is looking at maybe earning a whopping $12K to $14K per year.
When I pointed out to the commission that the pond is actually fairly modest as water rights go, Bob Main informed the audience that the county has 22 million acre feet of water in the pond Coos County is approximately one million square acres so if Main was correct we would all be a bit wet right now or the Johnson Mill Pond is deeper than we thought. Thankfully, a couple of male voices piped up from the audience agreeing his numbers were off and Main stopped arguing with me. As I explained last September
According to the Kern Water Bank Authority, “An acre-foot of water is enough to cover an acre (43,560 square feet) with water 1 foot deep (326,000 gallons). One acre-foot of water is typically enough to meet the needs of two families of 4 for a year. ” The water stored in Johnson Mill Pond is sufficient to serve 982 families for one year. Coos County has 27,000 households and while 491 acre feet is nothing to sniff at, it is hardly an inexhaustible supply and pales in comparison to other reservoirs in Oregon of up to 1 million acre feet.
Parry claims implementing the water bank will be cost neutral but doesn’t define the actual costs, or what has been spent on attorney’s fees to Ron Yoakim and then optimistically claims he is confident the bank will do “substantially better” than break even.