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Keppen resigns as director of Water Users

December 10, 2004


Dan Keppen, who has guided the Klamath Water Users Association through often turbulent times the past three years, will leave his job as the association's executive director in January.

Keppen announced his resignation to the association's board of directors Wednesday. He will remain on the job until Jan. 30 and assist in finding a replacement.

"It's been three years of white-knuckle driving," Keppen, 39, said of the high pressure job he took in November 2001. "I want to ease out of this and find another 'horse' to keep these guys going."

Keppen cited personal reasons for his resignation.

"My priority at this time is to focus on my family and prepare for the next stage of my life," he said. "We intend to stay in Klamath Falls as my wife focuses on further developing her own business ... We're not bailing out of the Basin."

His wife, Dena, does contract physical therapy work and plans to expand her business.

Keppen said he has no immediate work plans, "But something will work out."

He took over as the water users' executive director only months after the federal government cut off water to the Klamath Irrigation Project for the first time in 95 years. In the years since, Keppen has been a high-profile, vocal advocate for irrigators. He has maintained and expanded relationships with government agencies, legislators, advocacy groups and the public.

"I have a very deep and personal loyalty to the farming community here in the Basin, which makes this decision especially difficult," he said. "However, I fully intend to continue to be active in the local community and will engage as necessary to support the Klamath Basin, and especially, Klamath Project agriculture."

Keppen said he and the association's 11-member volunteer board of directors have focused on "educating the public about Klamath Basin water issues, supporting meaningful conservation actions and sound science, improving political relations, and outreaching to other stakeholders in the Klamath Basin."

He believes the group's efforts have been productive.

"I am proud of what we have accomplished as an association in the past three years," Keppen said. "I believe the association has restored at least some stability to the Klamath Project, and I am pleased that we helped advocate for, and secure a place at the table, in processes through which the irrigation community can constructively address its problems in the near future."

He believes recent actions, such as the creation of a coordinated watershed management program that involves federal agencies and Oregon and California officials, "give the irrigators a chance to deal with long-term solutions."

Keppen said a new executive director will need a strong background in power policies. Water users will be faced with possibly significant rate increases from Pacific Power in the next few years.

Steve Kandra, the water users president, praised Keppen in "regretfully" announcing his resignation.

"Dan, with his energy and talents, has helped build the Klamath Water Users Association into a respected representative of irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Basin," Kandra said in a written statement. "Under Dan's stewardship the association has developed the organizational structure, vision, and will to lead Klamath irrigation interests into the future. The association will sincerely miss Dan's dedication and loyalty."

"It is the intent of the Klamath Water Users Association to provide our constituency with seamless representation and anticipates having a new

executive director selected and oriented before Dan resigns. The association," Kandra said, "is now aggressively searching for qualified executive director candidates.

The Klamath Water Users Association is a nonprofit corporation that has represented Klamath Irrigation Project irrigators since 1953. Association members include rural irrigation districts and other public agencies, as well as private irrigation companies operating in California and Oregon.

Before coming to Klamath Falls, Keppen worked in Sacramento as a special assistant to the Bureau of Reclamation's regional director. He also spent three years as a government affairs specialist with the Northern California Water Association.





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