by Lacey Jarrell, Herald and News 1/8/16

Finding solutions for water conflicts in the Klamath Basin is an issue Sen. Jeff Merkley says he is still committed to.

“I don’t have the answers,” Merkley said. “But what I do know is that the same problems we had before, we have today. I’m going to stay in this with the community — I’m going to keep pushing.”
At a Wednesday town hall, Merkley, D-Ore., addressed several issues affecting Klamath County residents.
The town hall was Merkley’s seventh in Klamath County.
Water a ‘lifeblood’
Merkley called water the “lifeblood” of the Klamath Basin economy and vowed to remain committed to finding solutions to longstanding water conflicts.
“I’m going to continue to be a full partner in this effort — I just don’t know exactly how it will unfold. I hope we can find a legislative path that will honor all of the commitments and sacrifices that have been made by the parties.”
Merkley said he will continue working with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to rekindle water solutions proposed in the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act, which failed to pass through Congress last year. The bill is a three-part legislation encompassing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the 2014 Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement.
The bill aims to create water certainty for Basin ag producers and establish affordable power rates for farmers, ranchers and the Klamath refuge complex.
The pact provides an economic package for the Klamath Tribes, and aims to restore aquatic and riparian habitat in tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake. It also calls for removing four dams from the Klamath River.
Restoring air service
Merkley said he is pursuing several strategies to restore air service at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport.
The airport lost its commercial air service in 2014.
According to an earlier Herald and News article, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will not return screening services to the airport because of air service unpredictability and a need for stable passenger loads at the Klamath Falls airport.
Merkley said he has asked senators in Wyoming and Texas — airports in both states are having the same issues with TSA — to join forces with him.
Merkley said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., is tackling the issue in the House.
“What we are going to do is introduce legislation that says if a city had service, and lost it within the last two to three years, that service will be restored to the level it was if commercial service is restored and the airport asks for restoration of the TSA,” Merkley said.
Merkley said he has reached out to TSA twice and both times TSA officials responded that the agency is not going to change its policy.
Marijuana ban
Merkley said President Barack Obama has signed a bill stating that the federal government will not use federal money enforce laws against growers and sellers who are operating a medicinal marijuana facility within the framework of state law.
Merkley said he did not know how the new federal legislation will affect counties, such as Klamath, which continues to ban medical marijuana production and dispensaries.
Merkley said his stance on marijuana was shaped, in part, by conversations with U.S. Forest Service officials who spoke about Mexican gangs developing pot grows in the forest, and the violence and dangerous marketplace that stemmed from those grows.
“I thought, ‘You know, we’ve tried one strategy for a long time, and it hasn’t worked.’ It’s been readily available to high school students from the time I was in high school,” Merkley said. “So maybe bringing it under the regulation of the state, and cutting out organized crime, might be a better strategy.”
Education flexibility
Merkley said legislation passed recently replacing the controversial education plan No Child Left Behind, an education act that established assessments for basic skills. It was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Merkley said the new bill provides “a tremendous amount of flexibility for states.”
“The goal is to get rid of the shame-and-blame system that was set up under No Child Left Behind,” Merkley said.
The new bill provides funding for science, technology, engineering and math education, Merkley said.