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http://www.heraldandnews.com/articles/2004/01/28/news/community_news/cit1.txt

Commissioners seek drought declaration

Published Jan. 28, 2004

Request going to governor on behalf of farmers

By BROOK REINHARD

The Klamath County Board of Commissioners is asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski to declare a state of drought emergency in Klamath County.

Even as snow fell Tuesday outside the Klamath County Government Center, the commissioners voted 2-1 to sign a letter written by Commissioner Steve West requesting the drought declaration. The declaration is an important step in securing aid for irrigators if there is another water shortage this summer.

Dave Sabo, manager of the Klamath Reclamation Project, said that while the last two months have brought a fair amount of snow to the Basin, the snowpack has been melting straight into the ground instead of running into the lake.

"Essentially what you've got is a very dry sponge out there," he said.

West said the declaration by the governor is essential to farmers and ranchers; many irrigators used wells last summer to offset lower irrigation flows from Upper Klamath Lake, but a majority of those wells are only allowed to operate during drought conditions.

West and Switzer supported the letter, while Commissioner John Elliott voted against endorsement. He said he was discouraged that the Klamath Basin kept on having the same problems each year when there was still water in the lake that could be used if the government allowed it.

The letter states that the snowpack has already dropped 9 percent since Jan. 1, 2004, and added that forecasts estimate that April through September streamflows will be between 65 percent to 80 percent of normal conditions.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

n Finalized a contract with Great Basin Visitor Association for tourism services. The initial decision to go with Great Basin was made almost two months ago after commissioners approved, then rescinded, then re-approved, a contract with the tourism promoter. The Tuesday decision finalized the deal with the group.

n Approved an agreement between the Fremont-Winema National Forests and the Klamath County Sheriff's Office for county law enforcement services in the national forests of up to 758 service hours, or $32,000.

n Authorized the purchase of three mobile computer terminals at $4,645 each. The ruggedized laptops can withstand rough use, such as being run over by a car, submerged in water or dropped 6 feet onto a cement floor. The money comes from federal Title III funds and the laptops can only be used for searches on federal lands.

n Authorized the purchase of two snowmobile trailers for the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit at $998 each. The money comes from federal Title III funds, and the equipment will be bought from Klamath Basin Equipment, the low bidder.

n Approved recommended expenditures for Klamath County court security officers. The expenditures, which were recommended by the Court Security Committee and all come from the Court Security fund, include a higher salary for officers, at $14 per hour, plus a 2 percent cost-of-living increase, the purchase of up to $500 of ergonomic equipment, the purchase of lightweight bulletproof vests, five radios for better court security communication and the purchase of uniforms and expense of routine uniform maintenance.

n Heard a request from real estate agent Jed Etters for a more "user friendly" county planning process. Etters has been spearheading a fight to encourage the city and county to become more "business friendly." Etters submitted a half-page proposed declaration that would proclaim the county as friendly to business. Commissioners said they would consider his request and return with an answer in three weeks.

 

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