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Home-grown structure emerges in Klamath Basin

By TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer, 4/25/05

Farmer Marshall Staunton, standing, welcomes people who came to Klamath Falls last week to craft an organization for basin-wide restoration.
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The 10 million-acre Klamath Basin shared by California and Oregon has national forests, national wildlife refuges, American Indian tribes with sovereignty, a federal irrigation project and a half-dozen fish and other critters under protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

But residents of the basin, four years after a much-publicized cutoff of federal water to project farmers, are dead-set on crafting a grass roots organization that leads to bottom-up solutions to their quarrels over an often-scarce water supply.

Last week in the basement of the County Courthouse, one group of stakeholders talked their way toward three options for turning the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Conservation Implementation Plan into a grass roots vehicle. Facilitator Bob Chadwick, a retired U.S. Forest Service executive, will do the same exercise downriver later this spring.

He said there’s a “passion” for complementing whatever state and federal governments do with a structure empowering those who live here.

“There are no enemies,” Chadwick said after presiding over four multi-day forums on the future of the river, its resources and people. “Everybody has said they want this basin restored.”

The trick is linking those restoration efforts, some nearing two decades of activity, and one, the nearly 50-year-old Klamath River Compact among California, Oregon and the U.S. government, with environmental laws and desires for a sustainable ecosystem.

“We pretty well know what we have to do,” said Dale Foresee. “You’ve got to have a process.”

Foresee, a retired PacifiCorp executive, is representing his former electric utility employer in the by-invitation talks. The investor-owned power company has its separate issues playing out in the application for relicensing six of its eight hydroelectric power plants.

The BuRec conservation implementation plan, a work in progress, is modeled after the decade-old Upper Colorado ecosystem restoration program. Christine Karas, recruited from the Colorado plan to coordinate a plan for the BuRec Klamath Project, heads the effort.

She said what’s happening here is a next step to the round of meetings and documents generated over the past two years. “It’s going to take a lot of money to get it done,” she said.

The third-draft CIP is in preparation.

“We have a whole library (of other subbasin goals); collectively they are the basin plan,” Karas said as she recounted BuRec actions taken while the CIP emerges.

Alice Kilham, the Klamath Falls businesswoman who for 10 years has been chairwoman of the federal-state Klamath River Compact Commission, described the CIP as the hope for a structure all stakeholders trust. She listed some past efforts, rejected for lack of trust.

“I’m getting kind of tired, so I would like all of you to work this out, for me,” said Kilham.

All three of the proposed organizations developed last week are built around some form of a coordinating council that links restoration projects with the stakeholders and governments.

One suggestion for a real grass roots foundation came from farmer Marshall Staunton of Tulelake, Calif.

Meetings held without full involvement have not really done much in the past, Staunton said as he proposed a basin-wide citizen’s Congress.

He would augment that with a group from government, agriculture and American Indian tribes ranking proposed projects that had passed through a scientific review process.

The Klamath Congress, said Staunton, would meet annually to hammer out work programs and long-range policy.

“We could spend a week working together and see if we can’t come up with solutions,” he said.

You can follow Staunton’s idea, and results of Chadwick’s meetings, on the Internet at www.kbef.org/groups.

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is tmoore@capitalpress.com.



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