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10/28/2005 6:00:00 AM 
Alice Kilham leads the Klamath River Compact Commission.

Stakeholders aim to fashion their own Klamath plan

Tam Moore  Oregon Staff Writer

It’s a collection of farmers, commercial fishermen, environmental activists, regional federal officials and representatives of American Indian tribes tied to the Klamath River. They call themselves “stakeholders.”

Next week those stakeholders after nearly three years of meetings held in several locations of the 10 million acre Klamath Basin shared by California and Oregon will gather in Yreka to define something that has eluded several levels of government: a structure for basin-wide decision making.

“I find it interesting that when we spent time getting to know the issues and one another, people were impatient and wanted action. Now that we are talking about action, people seem afraid that a few people will make decisions for them,” Alice Kilham, chairwoman of the Klamath River Compact Commission said in an invitation urging wide participation in the Nov. 1-3 meetings at Yreka’s Miners Inn convention center.

Kilham’s compact commission is betting this homegrown process, which it launched with consultant Bob Chadwick in 2003, will do something two much-publicized government efforts haven’t: produce results.

President George W. Bush in 2002 directed four Cabinet secretaries to give him a plan for the federal part of the basin. They’ve yet to publicly report.

Last fall, the governors of California and Oregon joined with Interior Secretary Gale Norton in a promised Klamath task force. It has yet to hold a public meeting within the basin.

Competing demands for the Klamath’s water and fish resources are more than a quarter-century old. However, it wasn’t until 2001 – when about 90 percent of the acreage in the Klamath Reclamation Project didn’t get irrigation water – that national attention turned to Klamath policy. There was a drought, three fish species under protection of the Endangered Species Act, and what the government calls “prudent alternatives” to assure fish habitat, all in play.

Next week’s Yreka meetings will attempt to focus on which issues that need addressing in the Klamath’s subbasins, then set a process for integrating the many Klamath resource plans now in existence.

Kilham said there’s one other part to success: “We need to tell the federal, state and county governments that we want a process for receiving funding, streamlining regulation and implementing projects that we will initiate.”

The Klamath River Compact Commission was established as law by both states in 1957 and ratified by Congress the same year. At its most recent meeting, the commission again endorsed the grass-roots effort.




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