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Water User's Dan Keppen Gets Roasted

by KBC 2/26/05

The sign out front on weathered wood said "Bum Steer". As he walked through the door, the first thing he saw was a Cowboy in a bathtub. Then was the wooden Indian. Two steps later he finds a room filled with friends and tables with buckets of water for centerpieces with live fish.  Dan Keppen's wife had told him that they were going to a nude pigmy art show.

The community of friends came out last night to tell Keppen good-bye. He recently resigned from his job with Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) as Executive Director after three years. Three very very long years!

Keppen, a water engineer, dealt with farmers and ranchers on a daily basis, along with numerous government agencies, environmental groups, tribes, senators, congressmen and governors. He had to know hydrology, science, people, and politics. From receiving honors and awards, to receiving public insults and death threats and lawsuits from eco-terrorists, dedicating seven days a week to his mission, Dan simply wore out.

Nearly eighty people came to wish him well. His friends were not only the irrigators, but also the Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife employees, city commissioners and officials, scientists and his parents.

After a great dinner catered  by Yummys with a DJ to entertain,  coordinated by Mari Gill, water user's administrative assistant, the roast came with some pretty wicked humor. Emceed by Stephanie Baley and Troy Senn, it was 'Roast Dan Keppen.' But warmth and heartfelt appreciation for the tough, grueling tasks Keppen dealt with day and night to help our basin were the heart of the evening.

Bill Kennedy, Klamath farmer and rancher and KWUA board member, stated it well, "It's truly been an honor to be on the board of directors with as fine an executive director as Dan Keppen. He came in our community at a time when we were at our wit's end."

Old friend and fish scientist Dave Vogel was here from Red Bluff, California.  Having worked previously for US Fish and Wildlife for several years, Vogel has studied the Klamath River fish extensively and has brought real science and exposed agenda-driven drafts being used as 'science'  He is a true friend of the Klamath watershed to people and wildlife alike. Vogel wrote  a poem "Dan Keppen, That's Who", quoting many tense moments carrying Dan's creative and funny (after the fact) responses to politicians and groups and media alike.

Dave Sabo, Klamath Area Manager of the Bureau of Reclamation, explained and showed a specimen of a long-tongued sucker that he and Keppen worked hard to keep from getting listed as an endangered species. He read a letter from Kirk Rogers, Western Region Manager from the Bureau, extending heart-felt appreciation from the Bureau for Keppen's efforts and humor. Also sharing a poem about how Dan's critics would miss him was Jeff McCracken, the Bureau's Mid-Pacific Region Public Affairs Director.

Past president of water users Dave Solem shared about his first trip with Keppen to Oregon's Senator Wyden's office. Wyden was expressing concern about his treatment by Klamath Water Users and Keppen asked the questions. "I knew right there that Dan Keppen knew how to ask the tough questions in view of the tough issues," said Solem.

After several tales from his friends, Keppen addressed the crowd. "This is probably one of the greatest nights of my life...I really took the job because I felt that you were wronged...and I wanted to be part of turning that around, and I still think that is the best cause in the world."

He explained how his wife Dena will have her own physical therapy business, and he will have a local business. They will continue to reside in Klamath Falls and work in the community.

Keppen told how Dena is what kept him going.  "She's awesome!"

With tears of laughter and tears of plain emotion, Dan's friends well expressed their appreciation and gratitude for this great man who dedicated three years of his life to help right the wrongs inflicted on Klamath's rural communities.

Thank you Dan Keppen.

 

 

 

 

 

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