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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Guest commentary
by TOM MALLAMS, for Herald and News 2/15/15
One fix for Basin water issues may not exist. Multiple smaller ideas could prove to be a better long-term solution
     There is no doubt that a significant amount of time and energy has been spent by many individuals and organizations searching for water solutions within the Klamath Basin. I openly applaud all these past, current and future efforts. I may not agree with some, but that would be an entirely different conversation.

   After reading the article “Fatally Flawed,” and the extremely negative letter penned by Dan Keppen mentioned in it, speaking as one Klamath County commissioner, I feel a response is in order.

   The Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District, (KSWCD), has a proven history of serving all landowners within the Klamath Basin.  

   Assisting in the wise use of our dwindling ability to use our natural resources in the Klamath Basin has always been a major priority.

   Their elected board members serve as volunteers, assisting landowners however possible in these challenging times. This is not the first time they have looked “outside the box,” uncovering actual solutions and investigating additional possible solutions. They have also maintained a continual neutral position on controversial issues, sometimes being criticized from both sides.

   The letter referenced and the article itself I find rather confusing. To my knowledge, the Clear Lake and Boundary Dam combined concept has never been looked at. The letter conveniently omits any reference to the Boundary Dam component. The Family Farm Alliance, which is a very well-known and respected advocacy group for irrigated agriculture throughout the northwest, has identified Boundary Dam as a potential offstream water storage site.

   The author is a private contractor, employed by Family Farm Alliance as the executive director. Therefore, being critical of his employer’s positive views seems confusing. The article did state that he was speaking for himself.

   Another confusing aspect of the letter is that, even after lobbying other irrigators to sign this letter questioning KSWCD efforts, only four individuals signed, of which only two are actual irrigators. Adding more confusion is that I understand that Mr. Keppen is the only one of the signers that has even seen the presentation in question.  

   Additional confusion arises when the letter completely mis-states the contents of the letter of support that the Klamath County Board of Commissioners sent KSWCD.

   Our letter states: “The Klamath County Board of Commissioners fully supports KSWCD seeking grant funding for the feasibility studies and the ancillary costs in pursuing a balanced and meaningful solution for the water challenges within the Klamath Basin.” Our letter never even mentions Clear Lake, Boundary Dam or support for any specific project.

   The questions the letter asks are valid.

   Gathering the facts, including answering these questions appears to be the purpose of KSWCD efforts.

   It certainly has the appearance that the letter signers and those that support the current “Fatally Flawed” KBRA and dam-removal direction literally fear any modified or different direction. Even apparently “concerned” with any “traction” that the Clear Lake idea was getting in the community. I would suggest that all parties fully support investigating any and all possible solutions.

   I agree that there may not be a single magical silver bullet to solve all the Klamath Basin problems, but I believe there are many smaller caliber bullets, silver or not, that absolutely need to be continually explored, reevaluated and studied that will add up to the sought after solution. Especially when you consider the changing working relationships within the various affected parties.  

   Additional opportunities could be independent or in parallel of current efforts. To blatantly attack an organization that continues looking for solutions is counterproductive and not in the best interests of the Klamath Basin.

   Again, I applaud those that continue to proactively work toward a real, truly balanced solution that will have the support of the Klamath Basin citizens, as well as the local, state and federal elected individuals that have the ability and honest desire to move a viable solution to success.  


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