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What have Klamath Water Users done all year?
KWUA annual meeting 2/16/07, by Jacqui Krizo, KBC editor

It has been an intense year for Klamath Water Users Association board of directors and committee members. With power rate increases, (FERC) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission negotiations, lawsuits against the irrigators, and  regulations on lake levels, river flows, and water quality, all on the shoulders of the irrigators, KWUA held its annual meeting to update their community. President Steve Kandra emceed the Thursday meeting at the Klamath Fairgrounds attended by more than 70 people.

Power committee chairman Scott Seus gave an update on the power situation. He said KWUA started in '54 to protect irrigation and power rates. The power company Copco offered affordable power rates to irrigators since the Klamath Project offered benefits to the power company: reliable, regulated cheap water to produce low-cost power for all of their customers.

In '98 KWUA prepared for the upcoming renegotiation of Project power rates. They met with PacifiCorp but had no success talking with them. Rather than being a partner like before, the power company had become a large corporation; they did not care that the Project provided "power and food for a hungry nation." When Klamath Water Users' contract expired in 2006, PacifiCorp would not allow the irrigators an affordable rate. Seus said this was after 80 years history of 'credit for value', water benefits for power rate payers.

Seus complimented Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett who wrote a bill providing Oregon irrigators a seven-year gradual increase in their power rates.

Attempts to negotiate a similar phase-in in California were less successful; they have a four-year transition to tariff rates. No recognition was given to the fact that without the Klamath Project paid for by the irrigators, there would be no reliable regulated water for power on the Klamath River. The hydro dams provide power for 70,000 households.

Water Users are now participating in FERC settlement negotiations.

Klamath Irrigation Manager and science committee chairman Dave Solem addressed the group on the National Research Council (NRC) review and reconsultation.

The NRC is currently reviewing two reports, one on upper basin hydrology  and one on fish habitat, water quality and river flows. They are peer-reviewing the Bureau of Reclamation Natural Flow study and Dr. Hardy studies and will identify gaps in the reports.

The NRC met in Sacramento in February 2006, Yreka in October, and Klamath Falls January 29th. Their focus at the January meeting was on the Bureau's undepleted flow study. Marc Van Camp from MBK Engineers gave input as well as some Klamath irrigators and scientists.

Solem explained that there are two Biological Opinions under the Endangered Species Act, one for coho salmon and one for suckers. With reconsultation between the Bureau and NOAA Fisheries, by fall there should be a new Biological Assessment, then a Biological Opinion hopefully before 2008.

Area Manager of the Bureau of Reclamation Pablo Arroyave began his job in Klamath Falls this past September. His goal is to add water supply predictability to resource users, and stability to water users in the watershed.

He said the February 14 water year prediction is for a  "below average" year type and expected inflow to Upper Klamath Lake is in the low end of that year type.  This year there are 166 water bank applications, down from 200 in '06. There is a finite amount of money, and stretching that money as far as possible is important. The reconsultation on Biological Opinions is critical and the agencies are hoping to combine upper and lower basin interests into one coordinated Biological Opinion.

He said the Bureau is resolved to settle the financial issues at a local, regional and federal level.

KWUA attorney Paul Simmons said most of the legal battles in 2006 were related to power issues.

He said Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen (PCFFA) vs Bureau of Reclamation lawsuit began in 2002 regarding coho salmon. There have already been three or four court decisions. The '02 biological Opinion set flows for Iron Gate in three phases to be ramped up over several years. The '02 BO said the Bureau was not required to meet those flows totally from the Klamath Project.

In '06 the 9th Circuit Court said National Marine Fishery Service did not explain 'ramping up' the flows, so the Bureau must immediately provide third stage flows.

Simmons said Pacific Legal Foundation is appealing whether the Klamath Project is required to release their stored irrigation water down the river above natural flows. There will be no decision before the '07 water year.

He said water rights adjudication is moving along, with nothing to be settled before '09.

KWUA FERC relicensing began two years ago. Now there are 28 parties at the negotiation table. In December and January KWUA representatives spent five or six days weekly at the table. He said with the 'confidentiality agreement', the the participants can not tell the public details of the negotiations.

However, he said KWUA positions are not secret. They want affordable reliable power and secure water supply. They also need safe harbor, meaning that they will be exempt from new Endangered Species Act regulations if endangered fish are introduced into the Upper Klamath Basin..

Simmons said that the KWUA board is working very hard to protect the irrigators.

He said that the public will be informed of the details of the settlement and no 'done deals' will occur before the public is on board.

KWUA hired Greg Addington two years ago as Executive Director of their organization. Besides the activities explained by Solem, Arroyave and Simmons, Greg told about other facets of KWUA's endeavors.

He said political outreach has been a focus to acquaint representatives with the facts and challenges of the local farm communities.

He said communications and testimonies have been important with the Secretary of the Interior, Congress, regional agencies, state legislators, local officials, the National Academy of Science.

Media and public relations have been "a never ending effort" in Klamath National, regional, local, with radio, television, newspaper and magazine interviews. They have contributed to many national publications and audiences so the irrigators voices can be heard.

2/15/07. KWUA Executive Director Greg Addington (r) presented an award to Paul Simmons at KWUA's annual public meeting for his diligence and dedication to Klamath Basin irrigators' issues.

Addington said their website, www.kwua.org, is an effective tool, getting nearly 30,000 visitors per year on the site. There visitors will find updates, science reports, testimonies and speeches, news articles, tours, press releases and calendar of events.

Last year the Water Users conducted more than ten tours for the public, media, politicians, regulators and students.

2006 was a challenge Addington said, as there were difficult decisions. The board is striving to increase  funding opportunities with partnerships, grants and other financial help. He expressed appreciation for funding from NW Farm Credit Services, Lost River Ranch, Klamath and Lake County Farm Bureau, and Jess Prosser memorial fund. He said he is cautiously optimistic about the 2007 outlook, and said KWUA is working to be as effective as possible.

And what's in the future? Continuing to advocate for affordable power and secure water supply, reconsultation, Farm Bill 07 issues, Clean Water Act/TMDL's, groundwater issues and settlement negotiations.

Awards and recognition

Rob Crawford presents award to Steve Kandra

   KWUA President Steve Kandra

  KWUA board member Bob Gasser

Greg Addington  presented an award to Paul Simmons for his diligence and dedication to Klamath Basin irrigators' issues. He also recognized Dick Carleton for his efforts coordinating tours and meetings with Oregon salmon fishermen and Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers.

Kandra complimented the hard work of the board members and committees, and his wife Nancy for her support. He said Luther Horsley will be the new KWUA President when Kandra's term is up next month.

KWUA board member Rob Crawford presented President Steve Kandra with a photo collage by Anders Tomlinson for Kandra's constant hard work as President of the Board. He said Steve was often at meetings all day, then would be on his tractor all night.

Crawford showed a medley of Tomlinson's films beginning in 2001 when he filmed and photographed the water crisis, rallies and events. It also included parts of a documentary on the Tulelake homesteaders 'Homesteading in a Promised Land', a film for Fish and Wildlife, 'Fields of Splendor' including the basin's wildlife on farmland habitat, and part of his film Farmland.

Luther Horsley

Bob Gasser continued to compliment the dedication of Tomlinson and asked people to visit his website www.tule-lake.com

Administrative Assistant Mari Gill organized the evening's refreshments and table settings.

The evening was a stark reminder of the thousands of hours of endless and often thankless hard work and stress contributed by dozens of people trying to preserve their productive farm community for future generations.

Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
Phone (541) 883-6100
FAX   (541) 883-8893  

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