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Joint county groups decry water pact;
Mallams calls it ‘blackmail’
by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 5/7/14

< KBC News photo

     DORRIS — The recently signed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement was bitterly denounced during a joint meeting of Siskiyou County Supervisors and Klamath County Commissioners at the Butte Valley Community Center in Dorris Monday afternoon.

   “It is plain and simple blackmail,” Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams said of the agreement. “I wouldn’t say it’s a total surrender, but it’s close.”

   Mallams said he had not commented during the several months-long process to create an agreement that its supporters say is a step toward restoring fisheries and stabilizing agricultural water users. Settlement talks began in 2013 and involved a 27-member Klamath Basin Task Force. “I wanted everyone to make their own decisions,” Mallams said.
    Supervisors claim ‘fatal flaw’ is pact’s tie to KBRA and KHSA  

   The agreement was signed last month during ceremonies at Collier Memorial State Park that included Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

   Agreeing with Mallams was Siskiyou County Supervisor Brandon Criss, whose district includes Butte Valley and portions of the Tulelake Basin. He said local legislators in the two counties remain opposed to any agreement that advocates removing four Klamath River dams.

   “This is bad policy,” echoed Commissioner Dennis Linthicum. “It is designed around eliminating personal policy rights.”

   “I think there was an opportunity to do better than it did,” Commissioner Jim Bellet said of the agreement, which he and others criticized because it is tied to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement that, among other provisions, calls for   the removal of four Klamath River dams. “I think if the feds and state would have stayed out it would have been a better agreement.”

   “The drought has opened some eyes,” said Supervisor Grace Bennett, who believes dams, including those along the Klamath River, provide water storage and generate energy less expensively and more dependably than wind or solar power. “It’s really important we hang onto these dams.”

   Letters in opposition

   Collectively, the supervisors and commissioners agreed to send letters to federal and state legislators opposing planned legislation by Wyden to fund the newly signed agreement. At last month’s ceremonies, Wyden said he will introduce legislation this month to make the agreement law.  

   The supervisors/commissioners draft letter says the agreement’s “fatal flaw” is its tie to the KBRA and KHSA. According to the letter, “this irrational stubbornness cannot outweigh the exorbitant costs, environmental risks and losses of water supply, flood control, and clean energy that would accompany dam removal.”

   At Criss’ urging, the rewritten letter also will note the KBRA and   KHSA have been strongly opposed by voters in both Siskiyou and Klamath counties.

   Mallams, who acknowledged he and the other commissioners were elected because of their opposition to the agreements, said the show of opposition is necessary because he believe those favoring the agreements will use the most recent agreement as proof of support for the KBRA and KHSA.

   Supervisors and commissioners also reviewed objectives in opposing dam removal proposals and in developing alternative solutions.

   Based on a draft letter, objectives for “feasible and politically supportable Klamath Basin and Klamath River solutions” include: establishing adequate water storage and water supply reliability; maximizing the use of “available water supplies and reduce negative impacts on species of concern”;   “retain clean, renewable hydroelectric generation and affordable power rates” to both counties; and “Bring facts, truth, and accountability to bear to expose the unfounded claims, inflated promises, and hidden unknowns and uncertainties” of the KBRA and KHSA.




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