Off-Project petition backs water plan
Several irrigators off the Klamath Reclamation Project signed a petition in support of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the provisions it provides for negotiating water issues above Upper Klamath Lake.
Becky Hyde, a Beatty rancher, delivered the petition Tuesday afternoon to the Klamath County Board of Commissioners.
The document said those who signed it are optimistic about the process for a comprehensive water settlement described in section 16 of the 256 -page document and say that process should begin as soon as possible.
Supporters who signed the document say there’s a need for more information and education to ensure that off-Project water users fully understand the benefits the agreement provides.
“We’re just early in this process,” said Jim Root, an off-Project water user on the Wood River.
Stakeholders released the proposed agreement Jan. 15 after two-and-a-half years of negotiations. If approved, it would allocate water in the Klamath River watershed between irrigators, tribes, fishermen and conservationists.
It also seeks removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp.
Some off-Project water users strongly oppose the agreement, saying it does not provide the protections and assurances for water and affordable power that proponents say it does.
They’ve also criticized the provision that would help the Klamath Tribes purchase 90,000 acres of private forestland in the county, and say the Tribes would have no reason to continue water negotiations after the agreement is signed.
Hyde and Root feel otherwise. They see the agreement as a good foundation from which to continue negotiating water issues with the Tribes and others. The petition reflects that optimism.
“In general, we affirm our support for the orientation and programs of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, as well as the large amount of work put in by numerous parties to provide a thoughtful approach for the economic and environmental interests of many communities throughout the Klamath Basin,” it states.
Root said he attended a public hearing organized by county commissioners Monday night, but had to leave before commenting. He said many people commented on what they’d want for an ideal situation when compromise is the realistic goal.
He convened a series of meetings at the Shilo Inn in 2003 to brainstorm how to allocate water in the region. The agreement was conducted in that same spirit.
“ The fact that they developed a similar water budget gives me some encouragement,” Root said.
Resolution with tribes
Hyde said she isn’t completely pleased with every aspect of the agreement, but believes it still provides an opportunity for the off-Project irrigators to achieve resolution with the Tribes regarding water right claims.
“We need to settle the issue first and then as ranchers decide if it’s best for us,” she said.