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Dam distraction delays real water solutions; Klamath County has rescinded its 2010 approval

Herald and News 8/17/14

     Siskiyou County Supervisors Michael Kobseff and Brandon Criss recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Members of Congress and their staffs to reinforce Siskiyou County’s opposition to the proposals to remove the lower four dams on the Klamath River. We are optimistic in reporting that there is strong Congressional opposition to these proposals for a wide range of reasons.

   In late 2011, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to authorize the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. These are intertwined agreements that would have state and federal taxpayers and PacifiCorp’s California and Oregon ratepayers foot the bill to let PacifiCorp walk away from the Klamath River.  

   The bill met its deserved fate when it died at the end of the 112th Congress in December 2012, with no action being taken.

   Earlier this year, Oregon’s other senator, Ron Wyden, reintroduced a version of the Merkley bill with the addition   of a new agreement on water and land management in the Upper Basin. California Senators Feinstein and Boxer agreed to support this new bill as cosponsors.

   One large problem with moving this legislation any further is that it is not scientifically justified. The Secretary of Interior’s own expert panels have concluded that the benefits for salmon would be “minimal” and “unlikely.”

   Elected representatives from other states are now seeing the Klamath agreements for what they are: Supposed “stakeholders” wanting to spend vast amounts of other peoples’ money. These selfselected “stakeholders” also would form their own regional government under the Klamath Basin Restoration Act composed of unelected leaders.  

   These stakeholders are authorized under Sen. Wyden’s legislation to amend the Klamath agreements without Congressional approval.

   Also, although a handful of senators are trying to advance the Klamath agreements, the proposed legislation would be dead on arrival if it reaches the House of Representatives.

   California Congressman   Tom McClintock is the chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee. His district includes the long-stalled Auburn Dam and he is an ardent supporter of that project. He also is adamantly opposed to the Klamath agreements, as is Washington’s Doc Hastings, the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over any bill.

   We are witnessing the agonizingly slow death of the Klamath agreements. Klamath County has rescinded its 2010 approval. A number of parties to the new Upper Basin Agreement are already questioning it. The recent referendum in the Klamath Tribes demonstrated a surprising internal divide.

   The questions are getting louder about how long the Public Utilities Commission will continue a surcharge to fund a proposed project with one unmet milestone after another, a timetable that is   now years behind, and no forward progress on its central element of dam removal.

   At some point, we believe a critical mass of real stakeholders will acknowledge they need another approach.

   Siskiyou County has offered repeatedly to return to the negotiating table to work toward all of the things that could be done to benefit water supplies and enhance fish populations without getting sidetracked by the controversy of dam removal and the enormous costs associated with it.

   In light of the ongoing wildfire disasters in southern Oregon and California’s Copco region, water storage has proven to be a major asset to the residents of our drought-stricken region.   Building additional offstream water storage could provide increased firefighting resources and water irrigation resources for both on-project and off-project water users.

   Klamath County has joined us in a joint letter opposing the Wyden legislation. Both counties have invited Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to visit our region. Our open invitation to Secretary Jewell stands. We await a reply to our correspondence and a visit by her to become informed of the concerns of Siskiyou County and our constituents.



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