Herger Colloquy on Klamath

Some remarks the Congressman made on the floor of the House this afternoon in response to Congressman Earl Blumenauer's comments yesterday about the Klamath Basin during consideration of the Interior Appropriations bill.  June 17, 2004

California Congressman Wally Herger:

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for engaging in this colloquy with me about the need to increase water storage in the Klamath Basin, and to seek balanced solutions that will allow everyone to get well together, rather than unfairly targeting agriculture as the problem.

Mr. Chairman, first please allow me to clarify some inaccuracies in a colloquy that occurred last night involving my colleague from Oregon. Allow me to point out that the gentleman from Oregon who engaged in that colloquy with you last evening, through which he professed concern about the Klamath Basin, does not represent that area. In fact, his district is nearly 300 miles away and, to my knowledge, he has never visited the lease lands. I want to clarify that for the record, because I think there was a misunderstanding. In fact, the three members of Congress who actually do represent the citizens of that area--myself, Congressman Walden and Congressman Doolittle--do not support the position of the gentleman from Oregon.

The studies he proposed will not provide solutions for the Klamath Basin. These issues have been studied and restudied. There is no smoking gun. While the proposed "studies" and other past efforts to regulate the lease lands are said to be benign, they are far from that. They are an attempt to undermine farming. I ask that the committee not support anything that attempts to misconstrue the farming situation on the refuges and wrongly imply that it is a problem or poses a conflict with wildlife. It simply is not and does not. In fact, quite the contrary. Agriculture and wildlife are thriving on the refuges.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me clear up one other misconception. The Klamath Basin disaster of 2001 was not about too much demand. It was about an unbalanced regulatory regime and scientific failings that caused water to be needlessly taken from agriculture and from refuges for endangered species. After updating the law and the science, the other important step for us to achieve balance is for Congress and the administration to work to increase water storage.

My concern, Mr. Chairman, is that new water supplies are not being pursued with the vigor and the commitment that they require. Congress authorized the "Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act" nearly five years ago. However, we have yet to see significant, measurable progress toward developing new supplies. Mr. Chairman, we hope to have your support for encouraging the Secretary of the Interior to put more money and more energy into using this authority to support aggressively pursue new storage opportunities--such as a Long Lake Reservoir--which can provide more water for all interest in the Klamath Basin.

One last thing, Mr. Chairman. If any of my colleagues want to work to find solutions for the Klamath Basin, I want to personally invite them to come to the Resources Committee Field Hearing on July 17th. Rather that uniformed debate here on the house floor; we will talk to the people on the ground and engage in a thorough discussion about the real problems and constructive solutions. We will talk about what farmers are actually doing for the refuges. We will discuss the scientific shortcomings and how to fix them for the long term. We will talk about how to develop more water supplies to create water supply certainty for all interests.

Mr. Chairman, again, I appreciate you support for honest debate and balanced solutions. I hope that we will have your support to implement expeditiously whatever common sense; balanced solutions might arise from our hearing.