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Commissioner headed to D.C.; Bill Brown to be part of fact-finding and lobbying trip about dams

By TY BEAVER, Herald and News July 27, 2008

Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown will use county funds to accompany Siskiyou County supervisors protesting the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.

Brown and Supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff are expected to meet with federal lawmakers early this week to discuss the possible removal of the PacifiCorpcowned dams, a condition of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Brown said the trip is a fact-finding mission to “find out what’s going on behind closed doors related to the dams.”

He said he is pro-water settlement, but has come out against dam removal numerous times.

“I’m representing the county, but not the Board of County Commissioners, just like when any of us travel,” he said. “We’re elected representatives of the county, but there’s no decision to be made. I’m certainly not representing the Board of Commissioners.”

Brown said most citizens he’s talked to do not support dam removal.

No decision yet

Klamath County government hasn't reached a decision regarding the water agreement. The other two commissioners said it was Brown's decision to make the trip.

Representatives of agriculture, environmental, tribal, fishing and governmental interests spent two-and-a-half years drafting the 256-page water settlement. Funds to help pay for the purchase of private forest land for the Klamath Tribes and establishment of a stable power rate for irrigators are included.

Two county residents involved in the agreement said they were skeptical of Brown's motives.

"I don't think it reflects upon Bill Brown very well, and I don't think it reflects upon the county very well," said Steve Kandra, irrigator and board member of the Klamath Water Users Association.

Greg Addington, KWUA executive director, said he knows Brown's actions are motivated by his concern for agriculture and other resource users in the Basin.

"I only hope Bill will let them know it's his opinion," he said.

Gerrett Roseberry, off-Project irrigator and president of the Sprague River Water Group, declined to comment because he said he was not privy to all the information. Off-Project irrigator Andrea Rabe could not be reached late Saturday.

Toby Freeman, regional community manager with PacifiCorp, said Brown told him that he wasn't going to represent the county or a consensus of the board while in Washington, D.C., but would talk about what he feels to be a consensus of county residents opposed to dam removal.

Neither the Klamath County Board of Commissioners nor the county's natural resource advisory committee has voted to support or oppose the agreement, though Brown and Commissioner Al Switzer have both expressed concerns about dam removal.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted to not support the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, primarily because supervisors oppose removing the three dams in their county.

Brown said it sounds as if federal officials and PacifiCorp are close to a decision about the dams.

“But as elected officials, we’re not sure what they’re talking about because it’s behind closed doors and we’re very concerned about that,” he said.

Brown said he also has concerns about the creation of a private Mazama Forest and water delivery to the upper Basin, as reflected in issues raised by members of the county’s natural resource advisory committee earlier this year.

Paying for trip

Brown plans to use county funds for the trip. Each commissioner has a $5,000 travel budget per year in the county’s general fund. Travel expenses are left to the discretion of each commissioner as long as they don’t exceed the budget. Brown did not have an exact cost for the trip.

Travel budget

Commissioners have used their travel budgets to attend regional, state and federal meetings. All three commissioners used those funds to lobby for the renewal of federal timber payments in 2006.

Commissioner John Elliott said he would not use any of his travel budget to advocate for dam removal but would use it to advocate for the entire restoration agreement once a decision about PacifiCorp’s dams is reached.

“The dam removal question, in my mind, is between the federal government and PacifiCorp,” he said.


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