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Governor should keep pushing water issues

 February 15, 2005

With Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski in Klamath Falls today and tomorrow it's a good time to revisit the subject of cooperation between Oregon and California in solving the Basin's water problems.

A few months ago, a key step was taken when Kulongoski was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in becoming part of a Klamath River Watershed Coordination Group. Co-chairs of the group are representatives of the two states - another key point.

Strong involvement by the two states is essential for the water effort, and keeps the activities and decisions closer to the people most closely affected, whether they're upper Klamath Basin irrigators or lower Klamath Basin tribes and fishermen. It's also a sign that the states are involved, instead of leaving things to federal officials and local people to work things out.

Kulongoski has already demonstrated a strong interest in Klamath Basin problems and deserves credit for that. The attitude in Salem has undergone a welcome change since he took office.

But there's more needed - as there always is when it comes to the Basin water problems.

Kulongoski needs to find ways to further demonstrate that solving Basin water problems is important to him, and to try to get his California counterpart to signal the same.

For example, is there any role for the governor's office to play in the talks between the Klamath Tribes and local irrigators that are being facilitated by former Sen. Steve Harper of Klamath Falls? Perhaps even a personal visit to the talks?

Something else: Can Kulongoski do anything to speed the years-long water adjudication process aimed at sorting out water rights claims in the Basin?

The Basin is in the throes of what one Department of Interior official said not long ago was its "last, best attempt" to solve water problems that came from promises made by the federal government that it can't fulfill.

The states of Oregon and California have stepped up to play key roles. Kulongoski already has signaled his interest. Our advice: Keep pushing, keep things moving and get Schwarzenegger to the do the same.

Editorial board

Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board. Its members include:

  • Publisher Heidi Wright.
  • Editor Tim Fought.
  • City Editor Todd Kepple.
  • Opinion Editor Pat Bushey.
  • addition, three members of the public sit in on editorial board meetings as community advisors. Bushey writes most of the editorials.
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