Irrigators wrangle over Water Users membership
by Lacey Jarrell, Herald and News 1/15/16
Members of Klamath Irrigation District are still debating
whether they want to remain in the Klamath Water Users
At a KID board meeting Thursday, board members voted to table
the decision to pay the annual Water Users fee for 2016.
According to district manager Mark Stuntebeck, if the fee isn’t
paid by the Jan. 31 due date, the district may jeopardize its
Water Users membership. Irrigators participating in Water Users’
member districts pay $5.50 per irrigated acre. The 2016 KID
annual budget states the cost for KID irrigators is $238,168.
According to the Water Users’ website, the organization has
represented Klamath Project farmers since 1953, and has lobbied
for the Klamath ag sector in several arenas, including water
quality and quantity, government relations and power costs.
Water Users activities are guided by a board of directors made
up of representatives from dues-paying districts.
Water Users’ member districts appoint a board member and an
alternate to represent their interests in the association.
Although the KID board is undecided whether it will remain a
member, it voted to appoint Brent Cheyne as the Water Users
representative. Grant Knolls was voted as the alternate.
KID farmer Josh Dubois asked the board to consider allowing a
planning committee to come up with a few alternate candidates to
represent KID at the Water Users. He suggested the KID board
could vote on the recommendations at the next board meeting.
Board members did not respond to Dubois’ request.
Farmer Dave Oxley said he’s been complaining for four or five
years that he doesn’t think his money is well spent with Water
“I can’t say I’m against the Water Users, but I can say that I’m
not for them, in the fact that they don’t include all of Klamath
County. Every adjudicated, irrigated acre in Klamath County
should be included,” said Oxley. “If it’s not good for
everybody, it’s not good.”
Water Users bylaws
Luther Horsely said he believes his money is well spent with
Water Users. Horsely agreed that Water Users should be open to
more of the county’s farmers. He wondered aloud if the Water
Users bylaws need to be rewritten.
“I agree with you that everybody does need to be involved,”
Horsely said to Oxley. “But you have no voice without Water
Users. That why I think (KID) needs to stay in Water Users.”
Rob Unruh said he’s not confident now is the right time to
expand Water Users.
“If we can’t get our local districts together, how can we reach
out to the off-Project?” Unruh asked. “The backlash of KID’s
first withdrawal from Water Users took its political clout in
the Klamath Basin and nullified it.”
Jerry Enman said said he’s curious to know why it appears
there’s a sense of urgency for KID “dump” Water Users. He
suggested waiting a few months until Water Users hires a new
director — former director Greg Addington resigned in December —
to see if Water Users takes a new direction.
Horsely pointed out that KID meeting documents identify the 2013
joint biological opinion as having a significant impact on water
deliveries to the Klamath Project.
The 10-year joint biological opinion was published by the
National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. It provides guidelines for water levels required to
support threatened coho salmon and endangered Lost River and
shortnose suckers in the Klamath watershed.
Stuntebeck explained that the public, including irrigators and
their districts, are usually not involved in developing
biological opinions. He said an exception was made during the
development of the 2013 opinion, when Water Users was invited to
sit in on the discussion.
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