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Western irrigators hire Keppen as director

March 21, 2005

An organization of Western irrigators has hired Dan Keppen of Klamath Falls as its executive director.

Keppen, 40, resigned earlier this year as executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. He had played a central role in the Basin's water controversies for three years.

His new job is with the Family Farm Alliance, which covers 17 Western states.

The organization recently held its 17th annual meeting and was formed, its Web site says, "with one overriding ethic: Agriculture doesn't need another association, but it does need an effective, low cost grass roots group that can get the job done."

Keppen said he would be the alliance's sole staff member and operate out of a downtown Klamath Falls office.

He succeeds Craig Smith, a Klamath Falls native who worked from Salem. Smith plans to spend more time as a minister in his Salem church and to work for the Northwest Food Processors Association.

Keppen said he had been a member of the alliance's advisory commission and knew many of the board members from his time working for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in California. "The water world is pretty close-knit in the West," he said.

Keppen's appointment was announced after the alliance's annual meeting in Las Vegas. The organization also elected a president, Patrick O'Toole of Savery, Wyo., succeeding Poe Valley rancher Bill Kennedy.

Keppen said the alliance focuses on a few big themes, which will make his job different from managing "the crisis of the week" in the Klamath Basin. When he resigned, he cited the consuming nature of the work.

He cited these initiatives as examples of the alliance's focuses:

  • Water storage: The alliance sees new supplies as the best way out of many of the West's water struggles and has a database of potential new projects, such as Long Lake in Klamath County, Keppen said. "Many of them are very workable, very feasible," he said.
  • Title transfers: Irrigators who have paid the costs of the projects should take control of them, and the alliance aims to expedite those transfers, Keppen said.
  • Outsourcing: The alliance wants to make sure that the Bureau of Reclamation uses its money efficiently and will advocate hiring private companies and people to do work at the best price.

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