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.


BOR acting commissioner tours Basin

New biological opinion, future of water agreements considered

Herald and News by Holly Dillemuth 7/19/17

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner Alan Mikkelsen traded a suit and tie for jeans and boots Tuesday morning as he toured the C Canal flume replacement project along Highway 39 during his first trip to Klamath Falls.

As a fourth-generation rancher from Western Montana, Mikkelsen is no stranger to public lands and water issues, however.

“I’m probably the only Reclamation commissioner that knows how to steer a wheel line,” Mikkelsen said.

Mikkelsen, appointed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in March as a point person for the Klamath Basin, is touring the area this week to get acquainted with key stakeholders in the area’s agricultural community and the Klamath Tribes.

Mikkelsen met up with the Klamath Irrigation District board of directors at the KID office Tuesday morning before setting out to tour the C Canal project site. Mikkelsen and Washington, D.C. aides navigated canal banks in sport utility vehicles to the site of the project. Mikkelsen expressed interest in the C Canal project, and issues associated with agriculture and natural resources in the Klamath Basin.

“My charge from the Interior as the department lead is to try to resolve the issues in the Klamath Basin,” Mikkelsen said.

“I’ve dealt with challenging issues for 30 years, but I’m not sure that I’ve seen anything more challenging. I’m talking about the entire Basin.”

Jeff Nettleton, manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office of the BOR, as well as other local BOR officials, toured the C Canal project alongside Mikkelsen.

“We’re just pleased to have him here and have the opportunity to talk to people, and also get his perspective and the goals of the new administration,” Nettleton said.

New biological opinion

“Just visiting with him about some of the budget requirements for some of the projects and so on, familiarizing him with some of the challenges that we’re working through as far as the reconsultation process and so on. The 2013 biological opinion – we’re re-consulting on that to develop a new biological opinion.”

The rewriting of a new biological opinion carries a heavy significance for those involved in the local agriculture industry, including KlD board members.

“The re-consultation (of a biological opionion) is the 600-pound gorilla in the room as far as we’re concerned,” said Dave Cacka, a KID board member. “We can at least maintain some certainty or we can get hammered.”

Ty Kliewer, KID vice chairman, also emphasized a need for “water certainty” for the Klamath Reclamation Project, as the biological opinion will serve as a guiding document for water resource allocation.

Kliewer said a large focus for the meeting for the district was to voice concerns of the area’s aging infrastructure, which includes “everything that is used to deliver water,” such as the canal system.

Mikkelsen also met with Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry Monday afternoon, as well as land owners in the Wood River valley. He will continue to tour the Basin this week.

Agreement’s future

Mikkelsen confirmed part of his visit is to discuss the future of the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, which is near termination contingent on a negative notice from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Mikkelsen didn’t provide any specifics, but emphasized the issues would continue to be discussed.


“I’m going to have more discussions with some of the Upper Basin irrigators later today,” Mikkelsen said.

“We’ll just have to keep talking, that’s all we’re doing right now. This will be a challenging issue.”

Gentry said he called the meeting between he and Mikkelsen “positive.”

“Really appreciated him and his commitment to work with the Tribes on issues affecting the Tribes,” Gentry said. “I feel that he’s going to be a positive person to work with.”

Cacka and KID board members also expressed appreciation for Mikkelsen’s visit, and his experience in conflict resolution, ranching and natural resources.

“I think it was nice to hear that he’s a fourth-generation farmer and knows how to move water, and his expertise is in conflict resolution. Anytime we can make these personal relationships with the commissioner and people who are up in the bureau, it’s beneficial for the district.

“Now he can put a picture and a face to this area so it’s not just a place on the map,” Cacka said.

Mikkelsen said he plans to return to the area.

“We’ll be back,” Mikkelsen said.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Monday July 24, 2017 07:54 PM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2017, All Rights Reserved