The citizens of Eagle Point can be assured water will remain in Little Butte Creek and that the Butte Creek Mill will be able to continue to operate as the only flour mill west of the Mississippi that uses water to make flour, thanks to a recent agreement with Medford Irrigation District.
Additionally, the agreement does not affect the water flow in the creek or the water farmers and ranchers will receive.
Bob Russell, whom with his wife Debbie, own Butte Creek Mill, said this is the only way to preserve water in the stream for Eagle Point. Russell said without this action, if something happened to the mill, if it burned down, or if someone bought it and decided to change its character, the stream could potentially dry up in the summer. The mill has the oldest water right on Little Butte Creek.
The city has entered into an agreement with Medford Irrigation District and Butte Creek Mill for 1.9 cfs with the ability over time to purchase as many as 10 cfs. The initial 1.9 took 138 separate water right agreements. The city will have first right of purchase for up to the 10 cfs, which would always keep that amount in the creek.
“This was really precipitated by Bob Russell who had an interest that the water remain in the creek. He knew the city needed water,” said Dave Hussell, Eagle Point City Administrator. “Russell evaluated the need and found he could operate with less water right. This agreement returns some dollar values to him, which he will use over time to make the mill highly valuable to the community.”
Russell describes the agreement as a “win-win.” He said it gives the mill some capital, but does not affect the ability to use water needed to make the flour so it will remain the only grist flour mill west of the Mississippi. Russell knows there are expensive needs to keep the mill operational and a continued major point of interest and a viable business. He will need to put in a new turbine and he wants to eventually install a sprinkler system.
In the meantime, both the Mill and the City believe they are doing something that will have long term benefit for all.
Russell said it was Hussell and Hollie Canon, of Water Right Solutions, who have been working on this project for some period of time with lawyers who deal exclusively in water issues, that have made this transformation possible.
It is one of those projects that would go unnoticed, perhaps forever, or at least for a long time, if information such as this was not presented.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent