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Herald and News articles regarding Klamath County Commissioners meeting to vote on joint letter with Siskiyou County Supervisors opposing controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreements


COMMISSIONERS’ LETTER - Those tied to water pact react;  A ‘discouraging day’ for several Basin residents

by LACEY JARRELL 11/23/14 Herald and News

Disappointed, but not surprised, is the sentiment several Basin residents expressed about the county commissioners’ decision to sign and send a letter opposing the Klamath Settlements.

More than 30 residents attended a Klamath County commission work session Friday to comment on a letter protesting Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act (SB 2379), which encompasses the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Upper Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

On Nov. 13, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the SB 2379 to the Senate floor. The bill must be approved by the full Senate and House before it reaches the president’s desk. Klamath citizens showed up en force and provided two hours of public testimony — nearly three-quarters of the testimony supported SB 2379 — asking the commissioners to reconsider their stance and withdraw the letter.

“What a discouraging day. What a blatant example of not listening to the people where you live,” off-project rancher Becky Hyde said.

“I think it was nothing short of outrageous to have so much community support for these agreements in the room, from across agriculture — both on- and off-project.”

On-project farmer Steve Kandra called the commissioners’ action “short-sighted,” and characterized it as a “political statement, not a practical statement.”

“SB 2379 is about restoration and assurance for water supply — to say it’s only about dam removal is incomplete,” Kandra said. “It was surreal how the commissioners ignored what the constituency was saying.”

The three agreements that make up SB 2379, crafted by several water users and stakeholders, attempt to establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators. The pact also focuses on providing an economic package for the Klamath Tribes, restoring aquatic and riparian habitat in tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake and removing four dams on the Klamath River.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry admitted he was disappointed with the commissioners’ decision. He pointed out that the tribal membership voted for the full KBRA package — including dam removal — and said he doesn’t understand how the commissioners’ think the dam component can be removed and support will still be maintained.

“We’ve agreed to honor the agreements in the interim, and it’s really assisted agriculture, but we haven’t seen any significant movement in the dam removal and restoration component — all the items that make it work for the Klamath Tribes,” Gentry said.

“The parties worked long and hard to achieve the balance we have,” Gentry said. “Just from the Tribes’ perspective, anything different than what we agreed to would have to go back to our members.”

On-project farmer and rancher John Hall said he supports the commissioners’ decision to oppose dam removal.

“To me it’s insanity to pull these dams out,” Hall said.

Hall added that the possibility of future water calls by the Klamath Tribes are not a concern for him. He emphasized that every year is filled with uncertainty.

In his testimony before the commissioners, Gentry said without a settlement agreement, the Tribes may make full water calls in future drought years. Gentry said that is not an action the Tribes want to take, especially after the work stakeholders put in at the negotiation table.

“That the commissioners would make a decision whether the agreements work for us or not — that seems so silly to me,” Gentry said. “It’s amongst the parties who have a real stake in this. They’ve basically come to an agreement that works for us. I don’t quite understand how the commissioners feel like it has to be their call.”

ljarrell@heraldandnews.com? ; @LMJatHandN


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