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Representative opposed to lease-land farming


Published August 29, 2004

Rep. Earl Blumenauer speaks on local issues during unofficial visit


U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer made an unofficial visit to the Klamath Basin last week.

The lawmaker from Portland was in Klamath Falls late last week, meeting with environmentalists, duck hunters, Native Americans, irrigators, fishing interests and others, he told the Herald and News in an interview Friday.

No official schedule of his visit was available, no public events were held and Blumenauer did not go into detail of with whom he met.

He said he goes on trips outside of his district and around Oregon every month to get a feel of what different cities and towns are going dealing with first hand.

"Communities large and small are dealing with the same issues," he said.

During the visits he goes on jogs every morning to get a look at the area, he said. Keeping the meetings causal keeps the conversations candid.

Most those he had met with had a similar message, he said.

"There seems to be a recognition that a solution is going to have to be Basin wide," he said.

Getting to that solution will require groups that are at odds working together and getting federal support.

"We are going to have to find a big chunk of federal money to get a solution," he said.

He said his first trip to Klamath Falls was in 1969 and he has seen the community change since.

And, changes again are on the horizon.

"This is going to be an area of tremendous change in the next two years," he said.

With the hydroelectrical dams on the Klamath River up for relicensing, power rates for water users possibly going up, and the Klamath Tribes trying to get a reservation again, the complexion of the Basin could change in the several years, he said.

A change Blumenauer has tried to bring to the Basin is the end of agriculture on lease lands on national wildlife refuges.

Last year he tried to add an amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Interior that would have stopped agriculture on the refuges, but it was voted down by the U.S. House.

He tried to pass similar amendment the year before, but it also failed.

Ending agriculture on the refuges could bring more money into the Basin by bringing in more birds and, thus, more bird watchers, he said.

Although some birds do fed on the crops grown on lease lands.

"The wetlands were here for millennia and they fed far more birds," he said.

Sam Henzel, manager of the Klamath Drainage District, disagrees with Blumenauer.

He said if the lease lands on the district were converted to wetlands, they would have to get a new water right and lose their current source for water and drainage.

"Therefore they would get no water," he said.

If Blumenauer tries to bring legislation again, lawyers will probably get involved.

"There would be an intense legal issue," Henzel said.

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