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Water pressure grows; Four Basin city councils endorse proposed agreement
Herald and News 5/8/08 by Ty Beaver

AP photo
Members of the tribes along the Klamath River stage a demonstration during a reception before the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, in Omaha, Neb., Friday. The protesters want four dams on the Klamath River removed so salmon can spawn again. The dams are owned by PacifiCorp, one of Berkshire’s utilities.
Four Klamath Basin city councils have endorsed the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, and now supporters are trying to convince Klamath County commissioners to do the same.

The cities of Merrill, Malin, Chiloquin and Tulelake agreed to officially support the settlement following presentations by proponents. Stakeholders also plan to meet with the Klamath Falls City Council, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and other businesses.

Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said the board would likely wait for a hydropower agreement with PacifiCorp and a recommendation from the county’s natural resources advisory committee before making a decision.

There is no indication when a hydropower agreement with PacifiCorp would be reached. Some stakeholders, including Klamath Tribes attorney Bud Ullman, have said that a crucial development could come mid-month.

PacifiCorp spokesmen have said the company would remove the dams or put in fish ladders, depending on which option impacts customers the least.

Last stakeholder

Klamath County, which had a representative at the table during settlement talks, is the only stakeholder that hasn’t made a decision. Siskiyou County commissioners voted to oppose the deal because they don’t agree with removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

Agreement supporters hope drumming up support from other local governments and organizations will show Klamath commissioners that the agreement is good for their community.

“We’ve got a lot at stake here,” said Jeff Mitchell, Klamath Tribes council member. The Tribes’ General Council has voted to support the agreement.

Representatives of agricultural, environmental, tribal, fishing and government interests spent two and a half years crafting the 256-page document in closed-door meetings. Released Jan. 15, it calls for a variety of projects and actions to allocate water among Basin communities, including dam removal. Money to help pay for the purchase of private land for the Klamath Tribes and establishment of a stable power rate for irrigators also are included.

Among supporters are 13 irrigation and drainage district and companies, three tribes, coastal fishermen, many environmental groups, the government of Humboldt County, Calif., many of the irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project, Winema Hunting Lodge, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Klamath County Economic Development Association and Cal-Ore Produce.

Opponents include the Hoopa Valley and Shasta Nation tribes, a few environmental groups, the government of Siskiyou County and many off-Project irrigators.

The need to shore up support for the agreement and address misinformation led representatives of the two most visible supporters in Klamath County — the Klamath Water Users Association and Klamath Tribes — to meet with local groups.

Mitchell and Steve Kandra, a Klamath Water Users Association board member, have met with the councils of the county’s towns, businesses and other organizations to answer questions and secure endorsements.

Kandra said there is a lot of misinformation, and other groups had no information on the agreement.

“We’re trying to deal with what I call the little red herrings,” he said.

Tribal leaders are continuing meetings with off-Project irrigators to address their concerns and gain their support, Mitchell said. The Tribes so far have met with at least 40 to 50 of those irrigators.

Those opposed to the agreement also are staying involved. Ed Bartell, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, said he continues to work and push for a more equitable settlement.

He said he doesn’t have plans to meet with local groups to seek support and is waiting to see what happens next.

“We don’t see a great deal of movement,” he said.

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