Council voices concern with deal
Members of Klamath County’s Natural Resource Advisory Council say they have major concerns with Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, but aren’t ready to reject it yet.
The panel postponed making a recommendation to Klamath County commissioners Thursday.
“Just to say no to it isn’t an answer,” said advisory council member Tracey Liskey.
The water agreement allocates water in the Klamath River Basin among tribes, fisheries, conservationists and irrigators. It also advocates removal of four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp, a Portland-based power company. PacifiCorp has made no decision on dam removal.
Several advisory council members voiced concerns with the agreement and said they couldn’t support it. Others said they couldn’t just reject it and wanted more time for information to be available and those affected to meet.
The council was supportive of commissioners arranging a facilitated meeting between irrigators off and on the Klamath Reclamation Project and the Klamath Tribes. That meeting was canceled earlier this week after the Klamath Water Users Association, representing on-Project irrigators, said it would be unable to participate.
The Tribes initially said they weren’t able to give an answer. Jeff Mitchell, tribal council member, said Thursday night that a variety of reasons now prevent the Tribes from participating in a facilitated meeting, including representation issues.
“We don’t believe there can be any effective representation of off-Project landowners,” he said.
Advisory council members expressed a variety of concerns with the agreement. Bill Ransom said he couldn’t support taking land off the tax rolls to fulfill a tribal land sale or removing dams.
Glenn Barrett said he understood the position of on-Project irrigators supporting the agreement, as it would likely be good for them, but said it is unclear how it would impact off-Project irrigators.
“I’ve been wanting a Basin-wide settlement for a long time, but I don’t think this is a Basin-wide settlement,” he said.
Chair woman Andréa Rabe, an off-Project irrigator, said she’d spent weeks trying to arrange further negotiations to iron out problems. Unfortunately, no one wants to come back to the table. Rabe said she can’t live with the agreement as is and cannot support it.
But Liskey said that despite the concerns, to reject the agreement would potentially invite more trouble or a return to situations such as the 2001 water crisis. Liskey said it’s possible biological opinions could begin affecting off-Project irrigators.
Advisory council member Karl Scronce, who has land on and off the Project, said he preferred to wait and see what could be done in the next month. He also wanted to see where negotiations with PacifiCorp end up.
He’d recently met with tribal officials and other off-Project irrigators and spoken with a U.S. Department of Interior official and said he felt more could be accomplished.
“If we kill the agreement, I know where I’ll be. I’ll be dry every year,” Scronce said.
Craig Ditman, another advisory council member, said he considered the agreement flawed and in need of work, but would like the council to support the tribal land acquisition, saying it could benefit the county.
Council member Vince Belleci said he was concerned that if the county dragged its feet, state and federal officials will determine the county’s decision themselves. Commissioner Bill Brown said he did not think that the county would prevent agreement proponents from moving forward.
Two advisory council members — Rabe and Barrett — voted against postponing the decision. The council will revisit the issue at its May 15 meeting.
Brown said commissioners could move forward with a vote before the advisory council’s next meeting, but likely will wait for a recommendation.