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Water talks resume Feb. 12 in Medford

With the reopening of the federal government, water talks among the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” are scheduled to resume on Feb. 12 and 13 in Medford at the Bureau of Land Management Office.

The coalition, facilitated by Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to the Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources, is made up of upwards of 65 individuals who are in ongoing discussions on water solutions.

“Obviously it’s set everything back a month,” Mikkelsen told the Herald and News of the partial shutdown. “We were supposed to be there in January and now we’re into February before we’ll be there. We’re going to have to try to catch up and do the best we can.”

Mikkelsen said although he and a staff member weren’t furloughed during theshutdown, which lasted a record 35 days, there wasn’t much he could do without other agencies.

He said the agenda of the upcoming meeting will be focused on what he calls education efforts among the parties participating on the board. Mikkelsen said the coalition includes a “significant” number of individuals from the Klamath Basin, ranging from civic organizations to agricultural, fishing and tribal interests.

“We’re also going to be looking at some historical issues and evidence and what the Basin may have looked like 70 or 75 years ago,” Mikkelsen said. “A number of the parties have assignments to do that.”

Mikkelsen confirmed that the Klamath Tribes have not been invited to the coalition meeting, but added they are welcome to attend.

“They are certainly welcome to participate in the same light that everybody else is participating,” Mikkelsen said. “They’ll have to indicate a willingness to do so.”

There’s been ongoing friction between Mikkelsen and the Klamath Tribes about the talks, with neither side willing to move from their key issues.

During the first coalition meeting in mid-December, three individuals who are employed by the Klamath Tribes attended the meeting to take notes, but were told they could not take part in discussions.

“Until we have an indication and formal communication from the Klamath Tribes that they are willing to participate in the Coalition of the Willing, to find solutions to all of the Basin-wide problems, they will have to be in an observer role,” Mikkelsen said.

“Nobody has asked anybody to basically compromise any position in this coalition of the willing, but you have to be able and willing to sit at the table and discuss all positions of all the parties without precondition,” Mikkelsen added.

Mikkelsen said the upcoming meeting will lay ground work for reaching a concensus on issues at hand.

“We have an imbalance in the Basin of needs and resources,” Mikkelsen said. “The only guarantee that we have in this entire situation is that the future is not, will not, cannot look like the past.”



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