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Coalition pushes for storage

Fishermen, farmers want to give Congress a unified message
by STEVE KADEL Herald and News 10/22/06

MERRILL — A coalition of farmers, ranchers and fishermen agreed Saturday they would all benefit from improved water storage capabilities in the upper Klamath Basin.

Rep. Greg Walden, who attended the meeting prior to the Potato Festival parade, agreed. He noted the study of Long Lake as a possible holding site, saying, “We need to accelerate those efforts.”

State Sen. Doug Whitsett added that climate change is affecting water storage capabilities.

“Eastern Oregon uses snowpack as a reservoir,” he said. “That snow is melting earlier and earlier. We definitely need better water storage.”

The session was another in a series of meetings cabinet-level secretaries, Addington said.

Walden pledged to seek legislation that would address predation of salmon by sea lions.

“We stand with our hands tied behind our back while the sea lions have a feast,” he said.

Walden believes there’s a window of opportunity while the Bush administration is still in office to get congressional help for water issues, including disaster relief money for fishermen. It will take a new administration — whether Republican or Democrat — time to become acquainted with the Klamath Basin’s complex problems, he said.

That’s time fishermen don’t have, according to commercial fisherman Rick Goche of Charleston, one of those whose fishing season was all but canceled this year due to poor salmon runs on the Klamath River.

“I don’t call it relief,” he said of potential federal money. “It is compensation for something that’s been taken from us.” federal agencies that dictate water flows from Upper Klamath Lake.

“Our biological opinions are such that on a certain date you need a certain amount of water,” Carleton said. Instead, the needs of irrigators and fishermen should dictate flow levels, he said.

Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association urged that provisions of the 2002 Conservation Implementation Agreement be used as a blueprint for solving water problems. He said the document urges a watershed-wide approach in seeking solutions.

It was approved by the governors of Oregon and California as well as four agriculturalists and fishermen have held this year. Participants say they must give Congress a unified message to win short- and long-term solutions for Klamath Basin water issues.

“When it comes to decision-making we really haven’t had a voice,” said Dick Carleton of Carleton Farms. “We hope to change that.”

Water needs

Farmers say they need reliable supplies of water for irrigation. Fishermen say they need sufficient water for fish, and it needs to be cold water.

Several people who spoke Saturday criticized biological opinions.


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