Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
April 25, 2007 Herald and News, Ty Beaver
It began two years ago as a process to address concerns about PacifiCorp's four Klamath River hydroelectric dams. Water settlement discussions developed to include talks on affordable power rates for irrigators, the sustainability of fish in the river and the dependability of water supplies throughout the watershed.
Now, groups involved say they expect to release details of a settlement in a few weeks to a few months. That settlement will lead to organization of a Klamath Summit, an event promised by the governors of Oregon and California last year to address and recognize the watershed's issues and garner attention from federal agencies.
Dan Keppen of the Family Farm Alliance said he witnessed the problems and animosity surrounding water issues in the Klamath Basin and along the Klamath River for a number of years.
Events such as the irrigation water shutoff in 2001 created rifts in communities and between governments.
Keppen said that many of the negotiating methods employed to resolve those issues were conflict-driven, such as litigation, aggressive legislation and attacks through the press.
“It just wasn't healthy at all,” he said.
When the relicensing for the dams came up, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission provided PacifiCorp the option of a “settlement” process with involved stakeholders or the traditional legal and technical process that works through petitions and testimony. The energy company decided for both options.
Twenty-eight groups, including state and federal agencies, three county governments, irrigators, four tribes and environmental organizations were invited into the settlement process by PacifiCorp. The agreement was all discussions would be confidential.
Every group came with different goals. Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the presence of pertinent groups influenced his organization to introduce discussions of water supplies, affordable power and the possibility of reintroducing migratory fish species to the Basin.
“It's not often you get two states, the feds and four tribes in the same room,” he said. Challenging process
The process hasn't been easy. Addington noted that with so many different groups working on complex issues, individual philosophies were going to be challenged.
Both he and Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe of California, said that some groups tied up the negotiations at times, causing old feelings to resurface and the process to get bogged down.
The Karuk Tribe is seeking the sustainability of fish species in the river as a resource for tribal members. The efforts, while perhaps slow, are paying off, participants said.
The discussions and negotiations are a genuine effort by the parties involved, Addington said. Most of all, both he and Tucker said the process helped create unity and goodwill between their respective constituents, the irrigators and the tribes.
“It's pretty damn impressive that it's the farmers and the tribes that get along the best of any two groups in the room,” Tucker said.
Also encouraging is the growing reality that details of the settlement process will soon become public. Addington said he hopes to begin rolling out details through a series of public meetings as soon as he is able under the confidentiality agreement. Tucker said he expects a framework to be released in the coming weeks-a ??-page version of an eventual 200-page settlement.”
A settlement also would mean the convening of the Klamath Summit by Govs. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.
Originally scheduled for late December, the event was postponed indefinitely, because both governors first wanted a settlement to be reached to facilitate productive discussion at the summit.
“These negotiations will be the basis of any long-term sustainable solution,” said Jake Weigler, spokesman for Kulongoski.
- Ty Beaver
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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