Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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letter to www.heraldandnews.com
Response to commentary on Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams
by David Oxley, Klamath Falls, 5/26/13
followed by: Commissioner working against Klamath’s interests, by 15 Project irrigators
Herald and News Editor,
It is no wonder that we are not solving any of the water
issues in the Klamath Basin with rhetoric like that. It
saddens me that many of the people who signed that
commentary are in elected positions on local irrigation
district boards and making the decisions on many of our
water issues. The last time I checked...Tom Mallams and the
other commissioners were voted in by a majority of the
people and are representing them in the fashion that they
said they would. If you remember...there were many very
important issues that they all campaigned for and against,
but let's face it, the KBRA was at the top of that list.
They were voted in because they were anti-KBRA. For this
fact I think their representing the people of Klamath County
just as they were voted in to do.
Commissioner working against Klamath’s interests
KBRA would address water issues in a measured and orderly fashion
by 15 KLAMATH PROJECT IRRIGATORS
In a May 8 Associated Press article about the Klamath Basin Water Adjudication, Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams is quoted as saying, “I hope that nothing bad happens here. But if something bad happens, I am going to point the finger at the state Water Resources Department and state leadership as the cause of it.”
Mallams was elected to represent all the people of Klamath County.
Instead, he is working directly against the interests of hundreds of family farms and ranches, which, unfortunately, is nothing new for him.
Although he participated in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement negotiations, he failed to deliver for his off-Project neighbors. Rather than take accountability for this outcome, he now crusades against it, suggesting the negotiations he was a part of were closed, “back room” deal-making sessions.
His alternative — until the past month or two — was a dogged insistence that the state water rights adjudication process be finalized, for what he predicted would be a better outcome.
Consider the recent historic record on this matter. In a Dec. 4, 2011 article carried by the Herald and News, Mallams said, “A 1979 water right has no value. A 1990 water right is not worth the paper to start your fire with. I’m one of those who is going to have to pay a price. But that was a business decision I made. We’re all held accountable for our own business decisions.”
Mallams further said the real impact of this proposed order won’t be evident until contestants examine the confirmed claims, but he said adjudication gave upper Basin irrigators a better result than signing onto the KBRA would have.
“There are going to be winners and losers in adjudication,” Mallams told the paper. “That’s just the way it is.”
As a contestant to the Tribes’ claims, Mallams continued, he thinks the adjudication process would not provide even close to the amount of water the Tribes were claiming (emphasis added).
In another Herald and News article that ran a week later, Mallams was quoted as saying, “Even if (the final determination) does hurt the irrigators, we’re so much better off than where we would have been without the adjudication. A vocal contingency of opponents has said it will fight for adjudication, not the KBRA, to be the final word.”
Well that “vocal contingency,” led by our now-county commissioner, got what they asked for. But now they want a do-over. Mallams and his “contingency” have recently filed a stay (an order to not enforce the adjudication) with the circuit court.
They seek to make sure the family farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project continue to carry the environmental baggage for all water users in the Basin. They want their junior water rights to continue on as a de-facto senior right.
We need leadership from elected officials, not favoritism and implied threats of violence. The KBRA would address all of these issues in a measured and orderly fashion. Instead of the potential for total water shut-off in the upper Basin, the KBRA sought, roughly, a voluntary and compensated 15 percent reduction in off-Project water use.
Mallams rejected the KBRA and instead advocated for adjudication to be the final word. Well, he got it.
Leaders in the Klamath Project irrigation community chose another path and took care of business as it relates to water issues.
We chose to negotiate with those we have disagreements with and not leave our future to an unknown and risky process.
If bad things happen, or if there is violence, someone absolutely should be held accountable. However, it should not be those who are legally exercising their rights to water, and it should not be the state of Oregon for upholding a longstanding property-right based law.
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Page Updated: Tuesday May 28, 2013 02:54 PM Pacific
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