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Water group taking 'baby steps' toward solution

Published Jan. 20, 2004


Baby steps.

That's what an informal group of stakeholders in the ongoing Klamath water and land issues say needs to be taken toward finding a solution, said Jim Root, facilitator for the group. Monday the group met at the Klamath Falls Shilo Inn for the first time since taking a break for the holidays.

Root said the group again wanted to have an initiative to go public with after the meetings, but it wasn't able to get one done.

"We are again not there," he said.

Like the last couple of meetings the group had in December, the topic was water balance, or how the precious supply of Klamath Basin water should be divvied up between irrigators and federally protected suckers and salmon.

The topic is not easy, said Becky Hyde, a rancher from above Upper Klamath Lake.

"This is hard, this is hard as hell," she said.

To get a balance, irrigators from above and below Upper Klamath Lake will need to cut their water use to met federal water level and streamflow requirements for suckers and salmon or try to get the government to change the requirements, Hyde said.

"The problem with the water balance is we all have to share the pain," she said.

And trying to figure out how much each group should cut is becoming a long process with gradual progress at each meeting, she said. Hyde said this is unfortunate because it takes away from the "real work" the group needs to do, work on restoration plans that would be good for fish.

Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the group has been talking about getting the government to rewrite its requirements for suckers and salmon.

But even if changes are made, the different groups will have to endure some pain.

"Everybody agrees that if something is going to help us as a whole then there are things we are going to give up," he said.

In trying to find an overall solution and determine what each stakeholder will need to give up, the group is counting its progress in baby steps, Keppen said.

While the informal group was taking baby steps inside its conference room, about 20 protesters were stomping their feet outside the Shilo Inn.

It was the third time protesters showed up for a noontime demonstration during the meetings. The protesters want the meetings - which include talk of a possible reestablishment of a reservation for the Klamath Tribes - to be open to the public.

Root has said the meetings are closed to the press and public, and the group was kept small to keep the meetings and the group focused.

The protesters call the meetings the "secret" meetings, and plan to be outside for each one they hear about, said Garnett Bowa, one of the protesters.

Members of the Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forests, the protesters don't want the Tribes to get 690,000 acres of national forest land as a renewed reservation.

At prior meetings, federal officials, including the Interior Department official in charge of the reservation talks, have been at the informal meetings. But Monday there were no federal officials, Root said.

Those at Monday's meeting included Jeff Mitchell, former Tribes chairman; Keppen; Gerald Skelton, Tribes cultural director; Joe Browder, Tribes advisor; Joe Hobbs, Tribes vice chairman; Root; Jim Popson, upper Basin irrigator; Chuck Bacchi, Fort Klamath rancher; Doug Whitsett, Water for Life president; Kurt Thomas, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust board member; Larry Dunsmoor, Tribes biologist; Allen Foreman, Tribes chairman; Hyde; Marshall Staunton, Tulelake potato farmer; Chrysten Lambert, Rangeland Trust executive director; and John Crawford, Tulelake farmer.


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