An Oregon congressma n sa id T hu rsday that it is unlikely any le g i s l at i o n
p er t a i n i n g to the Klama t h B a s i n Restoration A g r e ement could make it t h r ou g h Congress in 2008.
U . S . R e p . G r e g Walden, R-Ore., called the agreement a step forward, but said its rev iew shou ld n’t be rushed. The proposed settlement a llocates water resources in the Klamath River Basin, settling long-standing issues between tribes, fisheries, irrigators and environmentalists. It also advocates removal of four PacifiCorp dams.
Proponents initially said the proposal could be to Congress by late February, but Walden and other lawmakers say the agreement should be dealt with carefully and not rushed.
“I wouldn’t look for legislative action to take place until next year,” Walden said.
The price of the settlement, $1 billion with about $400 million coming from new sources, shouldn’t be an issue, he added. The federal government has funded projects of similar magnitude and cost, such as revitalization of the Florida Everglades.
Opposition to the agreement also didn’t surprise the congressman and likely won’t surprise other federal lawmakers.
“Agreements that are this extensive and this detailed generally don’t make everybody happy,” he said.
But questions about portions of the agreement — its impact on areas above Upper Klamath Lake, water storage needs and costs of dam removal on the Klamath River — still need to be answered, Walden said.
T he law maker also is concerned there is no agreement yet between stakeholders and PacifiCorp, since the restoration deal hinges on dam removal.
Walden and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., also said that, given the amount of time it took to draft the document, time would also be needed for people to read and understand it.
“I don’t think you can quickly fund an agreement that took the better part of three years to put together,” said Tom Towslee, Wyden’s spokesman. “Rep. Walden might even be optimistic.”
An official with Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office indicated Wednesday that he also didn’t expect new funding for the agreement until the 2010 federal budget.
Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association and a participant in drafting the agreement, said he wasn’t surprised by Walden’s and other lawmakers’ remarks.
“ We’ve missed some opportunities as a group,” he said, adding the group still plans to work with lawmakers.
Jeff Mitchell, Klamath tribal council member, said those supporting the agreement will do as much as possible with Congress and the current federal administration.
“ That’s our goal and we’re going to work toward that,” he said.