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Irrigator seeks water meeting
County asked again to facilitate discussion among groups
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 11/28/08

   Klamath County commissioners may again try to facilitate a meeting among off- and on-Project irrigators and Klamath Tribes about their difference over a proposed water settlement agreement.
   Tom Mallams, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project and a representative of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, asked the board to try and arrange a meeting. Efforts toward a similar meeting fell through earlier this year.
   Commissioners said they had reservations about trying for another meeting, including what groups to involve in the discussion, and how to address those who claim they aren’t represented by anyone but themselves.
   “What we’ve heard is that we have a thousand different voices,” Commissioner John Elliott said.
   The boa rd worked to arrange a meeting between off- and on-Project irrigators and the Klamath Tribes in the weeks following January’s release of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The Tribes never agreed on terms for the meeting and representatives for on-Project irrigators pulled out when they learned the Tribes weren’t going to participate.
   Mallams said a meeting is necessary to work out problems his group has with the agreement, specifically in regard to water and power.
   “We’re not so hardnosed we can’t compromise. We’ve been compromising all along,” he said.
   More discussion
   Commissioner Bill Brown said he was disappointed the original meeting fell through, and he thinks further discussion with the county serving as a neutral party could be beneficial.
   Unfortunately, commissioners said, there’s no clear-cut way to determine who should participate in discussions. Commissioner Al Switzer suggested people submit recommendations for who should participate, while Elliott suggested leasing the Ross Ragland Theater to accommodate every interested group and individual.
   The commissioners agreed to bring up the issue with its Natural Resources Advisory Council in January.

The agreement

   The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is a 256-page document developed by fishing, farming, tribal, environmental and governmental stakeholders during more than two years of closed-door discussions and meetings. It was released to the public in January 2008.
   Along with removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, it seeks stabilized water supplies and power rates for irrigators and the use of public funds to buy private land for the Klamath Tribes.
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