Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

report by Gail Hildreth


August 13, 2003. Mary Zemke, a Jefferson County, Oregon County Commissioner, addressed a large group of Klamath County residents opposed to the COB plant on August 11, 2003 at the Bonanza High School Gymnasium. Mary and her associate, Vern Bowers, successfully led the opposition to the CoGentrix Power Plant being located near Madras, Oregon last year.

Mary explained that the Jefferson County Commissioners and Chamber of Commerce had thrown their total support behind the power generating facility. However, when residents of both Jefferson and Deschutes Counties realized the implications for ground water permitting and consumption in the designated ground water limited area, they united to persuaded the company to withdraw its application.

Mary, a political neophyte, then successfully defeated the long time incumbent county commissioner in the next election. Mary believes that he lost the election because he refused to hear and to act upon the wishes of his constituency. She urged the citizens of Klamath County to write their county commissioners Al Switzer and John Elliot, state representative Bill Garrard, and State Senator Steve Harper to express their opposition to the siting of the COB facility in Langell Valley. Each of these elected officials have firmly stated their support to locate the COB generating facility in the Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zoned area. Mary urged anyone with interest to run for the next political office to come open and challenge politicians who refuse to seriously listen to their constituency.

Klamath County Commissioner Steve West has repeatedly stated his opposition to the siting of the COB facility on EFU ground in the farming community of Langell Valley, which is located near Bonanza. Commissioner West is to be commended for listening to the local population, which numbers thousands in the eastern part of the county. He has studied and understands Oregon Water Right Law and the ramifications of the priority water permit issue which will be violated if the Oregon Water Resources Department allows the finalization of the COB plantís new permit application. This proposed permit would allow the COB facility to move ahead of over 30 other water permits waiting to be finalized by eastern Klamath County residents and farms.

The concept of allowing a huge industrial complex to buy or mitigate their way to a first priority water permit in Oregon is unheralded and will undoubtedly set legal precedence that will lead to further corporations or individuals with enough money moving ahead of farms and families in their quest to obtain priority water rights The OWRD must require the COB permit application to stand in line behind the other permittees awaiting finalization of prior permit applications. Some of these farm families have been waiting over 11 years for action by the OWRD. . This is a dangerous road to travel. If priority is negotiable then it is available to the highest bidder. All of Oregon should be aware that this is happening in Klamath County.

The Klamath County Commissioners were requested to, and have had an opportunity to, submit a document to the Oregon Energy Siting Council questioning the Oregon land use planning violation of locating an industrial complex in an EFU zone. However, to date they have failed to submit a document regarding this important issue. The state of Oregon allows for 12 acres of EFU land to be used for heavy industrial use. The COB plant will use over 130 acres of prime farm land for this massive electrical plant.

Roger Hamilton a former Klamath County Commissioner and former power advisor to Oregonís governor attended the meeting and expressed his concerns with the LCDC land use violations of placing this heavy industrial facility on more than one hundred acres of EFU land. He, Mary Zemke, and Vern Bowers also attended a Klamath County Commissionerís meeting the following morning, along with many area residents, where they addressed the commissioners regarding the water priority permit issue, the LCDC EFU zoning violation, and numerous other impacts on the community.

Commissioner John Elliot did ask the COB representative how much it would cost to place this massive industrial complex in an already properly zoned area in Klamath (such as at the old Weyerhauser site). The COB representative replied that the cost would be about 1% of the total cost of the plant construction. It seems apparent that siting would make a great deal more sense than spending the estimated $40- $100 MILLION dollars to build the planned 500 KV connection line down to the Captain Jack electrical substation to tie into the BPA lines heading into central and southern California where the power will be exclusively used.

The COB plant no longer needs the massive amount of water first applied for in the water cooled permit application (12 million gallons/day). It has an already properly prepared and zoned heavy industrial site available with direct 500KV tie in lines in the vicinity. Why are they persisting in locating this particular plant in a farming community in eastern Klamath County? Why are they spending many tens of millions of dollars to build miles of electrical lines across designated Tribal artifact lands as well as private farms in the County?

It is incumbent upon the citizens of Klamath County to let their feelings be known about the precedent setting water permit priority issue, and about the Exclusive Farm Use LCDC land zoning violations that will occur if the Oregon Siting Council allows the permit for this, one of the largest gas fired generating plants in the entire United States, to be constructed in Langell Valley.




Page Updated: Saturday February 25, 2012 05:15 AM  Pacific

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