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Agreement opponent will keep fighting
by JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 12/9/11  
H&N file photo by Elon Glucklich

Tom Mallams, an off-project irrigator and president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, at his ranch in Beatty.

BEATTY — These are busy times for Tom Mallams.

The Beatty-area resident announced last month his candidacy for Klamath County commissioner. A Republican and a leader of the Klamath County Patriots, a Tea Party group, Mallams is entering a crowded field, with six candidates vying for two commissioner spots.

Mallams, 63, also continues to be one of the most outspoken opponents of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, an $800 million water settlement deal. He is president of the KBRA opposed Off-Project Water Users Association and has worked with a local group attempting to prevent the validation of the agreement in local circuit courts. Last summer, he testified before Congress against the KBRA.

He also runs his 150-acre cattle ranch on the Sycan River. A Medford native, Mallams moved to Klamath Falls in the early 1970s to manage a grocery store, before star ting his ranch in 1978.

Mallams, usually wearing a ballcap and always ready to share his side of the argument, said he has no plans of slowing down, especially when it comes to the KBRA.

“I will not give up,” he said. “I have to keep fighting. (The KBRA) is not a compromise; it’s a surrender.”

Q: You have been a vocal opponent of the KBRA . What is your primary complaint against the agreement?

“It doesn’t deliver what it was supposed to,” Mallams said. “ That’s the number one issue.”

Initially, Mallams participated in stakeholder talks to develop the water settlement. When the focus of the closed-door meetings shifted from assuring affordable water and power for irrigators, Mallams said, he left the settlement talks.

“It needed to deliver assurance of water, it needed to deliver protection from the ESA and it needed to deliver affordable power,” he said about the agreement. “It doesn’t deliver any of those.”

Q: How would the KBRA directly affect you?

“It’s not what it will do; it’s what it won’t do,” Mallams said. “It won’t give me affordable power. It won’t give me assurance of water and it won’t give me protection from the ESA.”

Q: As president of the Off-Project Water Users Association, who do you represent?

The association represents any irrigators off the Klamath Project, Mallams said, adding he did not know how many members the group has.

The nonprofit was created in 2004 to advocate for affordable power rates, he said.

Q: What was it like to testify before Congress?

“It was a real eye-opener,” Mallams said. “I had always told people I had no desire to go to Washington, D.C., because I have a very negative view of how our federal government operates.”

But the trip, Mallams said, showed him how hard lawmakers work, often fighting uphill battles.

Mallams testified before the House Subcommittee on Water and Power at the request of Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. He told the subcommittee there is significant opposition to the KBRA and a related agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of time and resources fighting the K BR A . What keeps you going?

“I know I’m right,” Mallams said. “That might sound like a bold statement, but I sat in those ( KBRA) meeting s for a long time. I saw what went on behind closed doors and it made me physically ill.”

Mallams said KBRA supporters acknowledged in closed-door meetings that the agreement would not guarantee water or cheap power rates for irrigators, but championed the agreement in public as something that would do both.

KBRA proponents have said nothing can guarantee water or cheap power, but the agreement can provide more reliable irrigation water and opportunities for cheaper power.

Q: A key water adjudication decision last week recommended the Klamath Tribes’ claims for water rights above Upper Klamath Lake be upheld. How does that affect you?

Mallams’ water right on the Sycan River dates to 1979, meaning he likely won’t be able to irrigate with river water in all but the wettest years. Knowing he had a junior water right, Mallams dug a well on his ranch in 2002.

“We’ve got more water out of the well than we ever had out of the river,” he said. “ The hardest thing now for us to survive is power rates” to pump irrigation water.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?

Mallams said he wants to listen to constituents better than current county leaders do. Commissioners Cheryl Hukill and Al Switzer have said they support the KBRA, but not dam removal.

“The incumbents have ignored the public on so many occasions,” he said. “ The KBRA and dam removal is just one occasion.”

Q: What should be done concerning law enforcement in the county?

“ I think our state should step up and we should have more patrols from the state police,” Mallams said.

He added he would be open to the idea of consolidating patrol duties with the Klamath Falls Police Department.

Q: If elected, how would you run your ranch, advocate for irrigators and serve the county?

“County commissioner is a full-time job; I know that,” Mallams said.

If elected, Mallams said he would step back from ranching and running groups like the Off-Project Water Users and focus on county government.


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              Page Updated: Saturday December 10, 2011 02:21 AM  Pacific

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