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Commissioners plan to tackle KBRA issues

Board set a public comment period for Tuesday morning

by SAMANTHA TIPLER, Herald and News 2/10/13

New Klamath County Commissioners Tom Mallams and Jim Bellet aren’t waiting to tackle the big issues. The board of commissioners, including Chairman Dennis Linthicum, has scheduled a public comment session on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Klamath County, the KBRA aims to establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat, help the Klamath Tribes acquire the 92,000-acre Mazama Tree Farm, and remove four dams on the Klamath River.

In November of last year the two outgoing commissioners, Al Switzer and Cheryl Hukill, carried the vote to support amendments to the KBRA and extend it for two years. Linthicum voted against it. Bellet and Mallams took office on Jan. 8.

Though the board does not plan to take action after the public comment session, Mallams said the board could take several courses. It could do nothing, letting the past board’s stance on the agreement stand, it could vote to discontinue participation in the KBRA, or it could pull out of any future negotiations, he said. Mallams indicated there could be legal issues to consider with any action.

All three members of the current board said it is time to re-open the discussion.

“In November the prior board had a public comment period with regard to renewing the KBRA amendment,” Linthicum said. “Now that this board is in position, we wanted to give time and voice all the same concerns.”

“Two of us are new,” Bellet said. “We just thought we would take public comment before we took any action items. We could get people in front of us to talk, not just go by what was expounded on in the last hearing.” “It was obviously an issue during the campaign,” Mallams said. “It needs to be addressed.

People have asked for it to continually be readdressed. We’re doing nothing more than replying to the citizens.”

An open mind?

Mallams and Bellet voiced their opposition to the KBRA during their campaigns. When asked if they would set those feelings aside when taking public comment, they said:

“I just would like to hear the public and what they have to say,” Bellet said. “There might be something they say I take into consideration. They deserve the opportunity to get that out, rather than us just charge ahead.”

Mallams said he would listen to the people’s comments.

He said he has been on the other side of the table, making his arguments to former commissioners. He accused former commissioners of making immediate decisions and not weighing his testimony. He said he doesn’t want those speaking on Tuesday to feel that way.

“People have the right to voice their opinion,” Mallams said. “We’ll look all the options over. We’ll look at comments and new information. We’ll weigh the science and options and make a decision.”

stipler@heraldandnews.com  ; @ TiplerHN



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