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Water forums build trust, communication

A fourth in the series of meetings among parties to the Klamath Basin's water controversies ended last week in Tulelake with participants saying they'd made some progress.

"Everyone sits as an equal. Everybody's vision for a better future is recorded; and trust is being built, respect is being established, communication is opening, certain barriers are starting to dissolve," said Marshall Staunton, a Tulelake area farmer.

The meetings are held under the name of the Greater Klamath Basin Stakeholders. Last week's meeting was Wednesday through Friday at the home economics building on the Tulelake Fairgrounds. A fifth is tentatively scheduled for Chiloquin to bring in upper-Basin representatives.

Staunton said more representation is also needed from environmentalists and wildlife refuge interests.

"It's the best forum you'll ever imagine for solving these issues. We're going to find the best possible outcome," Staunton said. "There's enough energy and desire to solve this in the best possible way."

At the workshop were members of the Klamath, Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes, farmers, ranchers, loggers, commercial fishermen, biologists, personnel from federal and state government agencies and environmentalists.

About 80 to 100 people participated. Journalists were admitted on the condition that they get permission from those they quote at the meeting.

During the workshop, group members sit in a large circle, or groups of smaller circles, face to face and side by side throughout the session. In the center of the circle was a representation of the Klamath River watershed system, created on the floor of the home economics building with blue tape.

"They're here to explore how to create a Basin with restored rivers and healthy economies," said Bob Chadwick of Consensus Associates, the facilitator for the workshops. "They believe they can make it happen."

Klamath Tribal Council member Philip Jackson said he's been to other meetings on Basin issues and found they were much different. It was just people listening to someone speak, he said, no interaction.

"Here, you have your say, and everyone has input," Jackson said.

"People are trying to see how they can get everyone's needs met," said Garrick Jackson, Klamath Tribal Council member.

Members of the group were conscious of this year's drought situation, with the current outlook for water worse than it was in 2001. They often invoked the analogy of a "perfect storm."

"We are facing a severe drought. It's imperative that irrigators above Klamath Lake do whatever they can to help alleviate pressure in this drought year," said Becky Hyde, a rancher on the Sycan River. "We must join together with the Klamath Tribes, the downstream tribes and communities as well as with the Klamath Project and Scott and Shasta irrigators to survive this year."

Yurok tribal members who fish for salmon at the mouth of the Klamath River in Klamath, Calif., are also looking for solutions. In September 2002 it was estimated that 34,000 salmon died because of a parasite and disease outbreak in the Klamath River.

"We're very interested and anxious to work with people in this Basin, to resolve longstanding Basin issues. We think that this type of forum will provide all interested groups with a more real human understanding of each other," said Troy Fletcher, Yurok Tribe spokesman.

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