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Tulelake Irrigation District Agenda July 13, 2009

Walking Wetland Controversy, and Bureau of Reclamation Issues

by KBC reporter July 19, 2009

Visitors at the TID meeting July 13th were local landowners Bob Byrne, Jeff Boyd, Jacqui Krizo, and Marshall Staunton. Also attending were Fish and Wildlife Tulelake Refuge manager Ron Cole, and FWS biologist Dave Mauser. TID Board members present were John Crawford president, Bill Heiney, Gary Wright and Jim Havlina, and TID manager Earl Danosky, engineer Jerry Pyle, and TID secretary Grace Phillips.

Bill Heiney spoke about the walking wetlands (WW) on private property. WW that are discussed in the KBRA/Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

WW are fields that FWS floods for a few years for wildlife, then they are farmed. Land comes out of the wetland as fertile organic farmland minus weeds and diseases. Historically crop rotation with wetlands were a practice in the Tulelake government leaseland. In recent years FWS has been putting them on private property. In exchange for the FWS flooding their land, the landowner is given a FWS leaseland to farm.

Heiney said he thought Fish and Wildlife would discuss WW proposals with TID, neighboring landowners, and the road department, prior to creating the WW, and that these people would have a say in the decision. A WW showed up across the road from Heiney unbeknownst to him or TID. He asked Cole how discussion with landowners and TID was bipassed.

Cole said he talked with John Crawford and Earl Danosky about all the private WW projects and assumed Crawford would share this with the board. He said he didn't know anyone would have a problem with it.

Heiney said Cole had first described the WW as a pilot project and said he expected Cole would talk with them about it. He again stated he had no idea Cole would put them in areas without discussion with neighboring landowners.

Danosky said he only knew about the WW on Staunton's and Crawford's fields, but he was not informed of any others.

Crawford said Cole's "moving outside the box" was just trying to be fair to include several farmers. He, Staunton, and other's with WW have access to water 12 months per year.

Wright asked who dictates the design.

Cole said he does, along with Mauser. Cole said he hesitates putting WW plans on a map; he said it scares people with feds making a map.

Mauser said they want to get as many farmers as they can the opportunity and it's good for wildlife.

Cole said they, FWS, have biological interests.

Danosky said one of his concerns is land FWS has traded. "I feel it's not justified." One farmer put 30 acres of his farm into WW, and FWS gave him 100 acres of government leaseland.

Cole said he talked with Crawford before he did it.

Heiney asked if they can go back and make a policy. He said his family has a house, there's subbage, and a seasonal wetland across the road with no limit on it. There is no protection for Heiney.

Krizo handed Cole the statement in the KBRA (15.1.2C) that says, "C. Effective Date and Support for Agreement Terms. The effective date for this Section 15.1.2 shall be the date that Appendix E-1 becomes effective. Each of KPWU consents to this Section 15.1.2 and hereby releases the United States, TID, and KDD from all claims, damages, or losses resulting from the performance under this section and under any new or amended contracts consistent with this Section 15.1.2."

Krizo said the KBRA says TID and the government are not liable for damages.

Cole said Krizo was reading that into the KBRA, that it didn't say that. Krizo read it to the group.

Cole said he was sorry he hadn't talked to neighboring landowners, but, "I'm not going into it to ask permission."

Heiney felt there should be a signoff by the adjacent landowners who could have damage to their crop and homes.

Crawford didn't feel there should be a signoff, and said, we all supported the settlement agreement.

Heiney said, I didn't believe when I supported the settlement that it meant this monster would show up in my backyard.

Cole said he must be careful, they can't look like they are getting approval from landowners because the environmentalists supporting the settlement wouldn't like that.

Heiney asked why it was so important to put WW on private ground.

Mauser said to get the environmentalists to support leaseland farming, they had to put wetlands on private ground.

Heiney asked, are WW on private ground what is in the environmentalists' minds thinking that will save leaselands?

Cole said WW on leaselands are the core of environmentalists support; on private ground is a huge bonus, like Calif. Audobon, Ecovalue, it's an important role.

Heiney said they're good tools, but he doesn't want 3rd party impacts.

Jeff Boyd said he leases his father's land by Staunton's and Walker's WW. He said there was no communication with him when the WW showed up next to his farm. He said in the past, when there was water in that ditch, the field used to sub out. There was standing water in that field.

He said it is good ground, nice for wildlife, nice trade for the WW landowners, "but what if it ruins my crop?"

He said, "There was no communication with me."

Boyd expressed concern that on low water year, the WW would have water when farmers would not.

Cole assured him that they won't flood the WW if it's a short water year.

Boyd asked who paid the power rates for pumping water onto the WW and removing the water.

Cole said FWS pays 1/3.

Heiney said he's concerned about the consumptive use of wetlands; it will take ten acre feet of water coming out of canals, taking the water out of the ag allocation.

Danosky thought five acre feet per acre would evaporate. He said  Walker's WW leaks.

Crawford said his neighors didn't lose three inches of water elevation in his wetland, and said if he has a problem he'll sue him.

Marshall Staunton said he has better field after it's been in the WW.

Cole said, people are making money off of the WW.

Heiney said, you're just talking about the ones who benefit.

Bob Byrne said, I can't believe what I'm hearing. A WW appeared across the road from his house with no prior mention of it to him.

He told Cole, you don't want to ask permission. We have tall trees, a two story house. I farmed Tulana and Steel Swamp. I can't see how domestic wetlands are going to work. That's why the Kuchel Act kept them separate. You talk about how to make something work; there will be tremendous conflict. I don't want a swamp next to my house that doesn't go away.

Cole said it is working some places, like by Crawford.

Byrne said he doesn't want damage to his home, and doesn't want bugs from a swamp next door. He said these WW are not designed to be by private homes; they belong in the refuges.

Cole said, "I'd be a liar if I said it would never fail."

Cole told Byrne he'd like to discuss the WW with him soon, but Byrne needed a better reason than not wanting bugs.

Cole suggested FWS and TID and effected landowners meet this October and form a policy dealing regarding WW.

(KBC editor's note: the KBRA is supposed to be signed by all the stakeholders at the closed-door settlement table by September, so the written KBRA will be the final agreement) KBRA 7.11. Entire Understanding. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding among the Parties. This Agreement constitutes the final, complete and exclusive agreement and understanding among the Parties with respect to the subject matter of this Agreement. It supersedes all prior agreements and understandings, whether oral or written, concerning the subject matter hereof. Other than the Appendices to this Agreement, which are attached hereto and incorporated throughout this Agreement by reference, no other document, representation, agreement, understanding or promise, constitutes any part of this Agreement."

In other business, the Bureau of Reclamation billed Klamath Project irrigation districts $7 million. Philips said the Bureau did not tell them what the bill is for, however, TID was told they must pay the bill to keep receiving water. The Bureau said the only alternative is to pursue legislation to make the Klamath Project multi-use including Fish and Wildlife. The Project was built specifically for irrigation.

Crawford said that the KBRA makes the Project multi-use. (KBRA  "15.1.3. Modification of Klamath Reclamation Project Purposes" - page 60)

Cole said his issue with the Bureau is the Bureau tells FWS they'll pay for something, then they don't pay for it.





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