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Sen. Wyden leads town hall at OIT’s College Union;
Water agreements and veteran care among topics
  by TRISTAN HIEGLER, Herald and News 1/18/15.

     Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) kept his tradition of community engagement alive Saturday afternoon with a town hall in Klamath Falls.

   Since being elected in 1996, Wyden has promised to conduct one town hall every year in every county across the state. The local event marked his 717th appearance at such an event, and it was his 20th in Klamath County.

   On the community’s mind Saturday night were issues around water rights agreements, sustainable energy, veteran care, rural health care and more. Approximately 80 people attended the question and answer period at OIT’s College Union.

   According to Wyden, his number one priority going into the next legislative session will be the passage of the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act (SB 2379).  

   The legislation is a series of agreements between Klamath Basin water stakeholders, including local irrigators and the Klamath Tribes. The agreements aim to ensure predictable water outputs for farmers, restore fish habitats and remove several dams

   Wyden said work on SB 2379 started over 10 years ago and was recently advanced by a task force that convened in 2013. While many compromises had to be made to reach all the agreements, Wyden said the bill’s costs were also reduced.

   “I want to thank all the people in the community who have done so much, now I believe we are on the cusp,” Wyden told the audience Saturday.

   “I’m going to pull out all the stops to make sure this happens in this Congress,” he added.  

   Several audience members questioned why the four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River had to be removed and not upgraded. Wyden noted the dams, which are operated by the PacifiCorp utility, are private property which the utility has deemed would be more cost effective to remove rather than upgrade.
       Speaking after the town hall, Wyden said he is negotiating with PacifiCorp to keep dam removal costs from hiking up customers’ bills too much.

   “I’m pushing the utility very hard; I’m not going to go through all the negotiations in public. I’m very concerned that this rate issue has hit the community very hard,” Wyden said. “I think the utility ought to be looking at ways to hold down the rate as part of everybody stepping up and being part of this solution.”

   Another local and national issue that rallied interest from the audience was the plight of a recently deceased Korean War veteran. Kaye Corey spoke up about how her husband, Lye Cory, died   Nov. 4, 2014.

   According to Corey, her husband waited three days for authorization from the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs on a procedure before he passed. Corey asked Wyden what he is   doing to take care of veterans, as well as stating her dedication to keeping this kind of delay from hurting another veteran.

   Wyden noted an investigation into the incident is ongoing, but he pledged to Corey to take a look at current and future reforms, and walk such measures (personally) through the political system.

   He also said his staff would work on creating a website with information and updates on veteran care issues after an audience member asked about ways they could help.

   Contact Wyden via his Medford office at 541-858-5122 or on his website, wyden.senate.gov/contact.

    thiegler@heraldandnews.com  ;  

  H&N photo by Tristan Hiegler

   Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) spoke at a town hall at OIT Saturday night. During the event, the senator fielded questions about water agreements, veteran care and other local and national issues.






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