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What an agreement among Klamath River stakeholders could mean for this area
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 12/16/07

After years of uncertainty, those living along the banks of the Klamath River and its tributaries may soon know how much water their future holds.
   Representatives from about 25 groups, including government agencies, tribes, environmentalists and irrigators, met in Redding last week to continue discussing how to rectify issues along the troubled watershed.
   They’ve met for nearly three years and have yet to officially release any details. Those involved, though, say they expect to sign a final agreement by the end of the year and are eager to see the public’s reaction.
   “I don’t know of anyone who is anxious to prolong the confidentiality,” said Bud Ullman, an attorney for the Klamath Tribes.
   Details of an early agreement were published this month in an Oregonian newspaper article. The article said the agreement specified removal of four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp, guaranteed water for irrigation, subsidized electrical rates to pump water and millions of dollars for salmon recovery and economic development efforts.

Participants say they are happy with the process, but are ready to wrap up

   It is not known how the document was obtained and settlement participants, including Ullman and Jon Hicks of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, declined to confirm or deny any portion of the released details, citing they are still under confidentiality. 

   But Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said he was 95 percent sure that released details were from an initial framework developed about a year ago. 

   Kelly Catlett, policy adviser for Friends of the River, also said those details were discussed at least a year ago. 

Secure supply 

   Addington said no group involved kept secret what it wants from the settlement process and it shouldn’t be surprising that some of those goals, such as guaranteed irrigation water and subsidized electrical rates, would show up in early drafts. 

   “It means a secure supply. Something we can count on and manage and plan around,” he said. 

   Those involved in the discussions said they are generally happy with the process, but are ready to wrap it up. Substantive changes have been made in the past months. 

   Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said the remainder of the process includes making the document consistent as a whole. 

   Some in the group are hesitant to say when they think the document will be released to the public, indicating it could be in a few days, weeks or longer. 

   “Anything is possible is my incredibly vague answer,” Catlett said. 

Long-term gains 

   But each group is making sacrifices and won’t get all they seek. Addington and Elliott said that some may be upset by the short-term effects of the agreement, but they say the long-term benefits will outweigh drawbacks. 

   Even when the groups do reach an agreement, those involved concede public response will be critical and they don’t know what to expect. Though they represent people who will be affected by the settlement, it is possible to get lost in the process. 

   “There’s a point where I have to step back away from it and ask what my impressions are as a county commissioner,” Elliott said.


Water future
Stakeholders represent a variety of interests

   Two-dozen diverse stakeholders began meeting in 2005 to develop a consensus based solution for the Klamath Basin’s longstanding water disputes. 

   The Klamath Settlement Group includes Indian tribes, farmers, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. Their interests include restoring Klamath River fisheries, including salmon and suckers; meeting agricultural needs for irrigation; protecting water quality and sustaining the ecology and economies of the Basin. 

   Among those with critical interests are the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Klamath Irrigation Project, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates six national wildlife refuges. 

   The full list of participants, who hope to release a settlement document soon, include: 

   The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

   Also participating are the California Department of Fish and Game, California Resources Agency; state of Oregon, including the Oregon Governor’s Natural Resources Office, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Water Resources Department. 

   Tribes include the Klamath Tribes, and from California the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe and Yurok Tribe. 

   County governments taking part are Klamath County; Humbolt County, Calif.; and Siskiyou County, Calif. 

   Other participants are Klamath Off-Project Water Users; Klamath Water Users Association; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations; American Rivers; California Trout, Friends of the River; Klamath Forest Alliance; North Coast Environmental Center; Northern California/Nevada Council, Federation of Fly Fishers; Salmon River Restoration Council; Trout Unlimited; and the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy. 

   PacifiCorp filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2004 to continue operating its hydroelectric dams in Southern Oregon and Northern California. At the same time, PacifiCorp gave the regional representatives the chance to settle the dispute over the four dams. 

   Representatives accepted the challenge and the settlement group was born.


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