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More federal funds may be needed for water agreement
by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 9/11/10
More of the nearly $1 billion needed to implement the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement may have to be allocated by Congress than previously estimated.
Stakeholders have said the cost of implementation hasn’t changed, but that less money is available from current budgets of federal and state agencies than expected.
Funding of the landmark agreement was among several topics of the first meeting Friday of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council in Eureka, Calif.
Stakeholders said the meeting was more relaxed than negotiations that formed the agreements. They are looking forward to implementing the goals of the documents.
“It’s good in that you’re not gnashing your teeth but I don’t want to be talking about protocols, I want to be talking about secure water supplies for the Basin,” said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.
Stakeholders, along with the governors of California and Oregon and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, signed the restoration agreement in late February.
The document attempts to resolve disputes over water.
If the KBRA is funded, the coordinating council will advise federal authorities about implementation of the agreement and its related Klamath River dam removal agreement, Addington said.
That requires stakeholders — ranging from irrigators and fishermen, tribes and conservationists and county, state and federal representatives — to form the group, obtain a federal charter and determine how they will function and who will do what.
Funding was not discussed in depth, Addington and Matt Walter, an irrigator with the Upper Klamath Water Users Association, said, but agencies are now looking more closely at their budgets and estimate that less of their funds can go toward implementation.
Stakeholders also talked about the federal legislation needed for implementation — something they don’t expect to be discussed until after November mid-term elections and an informational Congressional hearing.
Walter and Addington said no changes were made to the implementation timeline and that stakeholders are accomplishing what they can now, including formation of the Klamath Basin Power Alliance, a non-profit that irrigators from on and off the Klamath Reclamation Project could join to take advantage of power benefits through the KBRA.
“Despite everything not being in place, we’re moving forward,” Walter said.
About the agreements
It would cost roughly $1.5 billion to implement all aspects of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and its related dam removal agreement. Among its key provisions:
• Removing four hydroelectric dams, owned by PacifiCorp, pending studies that will determine the feasibility of removal, to improve passage for endangered fish species.
• Establishing sustainable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators.
• Helping the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel of private timberland called the Mazama Tree Farm.
• Funding for habitat restoration and economic development throughout the region.
Bureau: 2010 a dry year
Low inflows to Upper Klamath Lake have made 2010 one of the driest years on record, federal officials said Friday during a meeting of stakeholders of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Greg Adding ton, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said river flows into the lake were so low that it is the fifth driest year since record keeping began in 1961.
The water shortage this year left Basin irrigators with less than half of their typical allocation of irrigation water from the lake, requiring many to farm elsewhere, idle their fields or change crops.
Page Updated: Thursday September 16, 2010 03:39 AM Pacific
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