Reaction to agreement varies in the Basin, beyond
(KBC NOTE: Our public, constituents of the farm leaders, was NOT included, and in our irrigation district, the directors will not allow the farmers' opinions to influence their vote/pledge last Monday to support their sell-out plan. We've only heard promises we cant find in the settlement document that we were allowed to see yesterday, and also threats for if we don't agree with the plan. We were scorned for daring to ask questions.)
Following are opinions on the proposed water
Steve Kandra, Klamath Project board member and farmer: “The proposed agreement provides stability and security to Klamath Basin communities. It provides for a predictable supply of water for farmers, resources to address times of water shortage and affordable power for efficient water use.
“By implementing this agreement we can spare the next generation of family farmers and ranchers from a lifetime of neighbor-against-neighbor litigation, media wars and economic uncertainty.”
Dave Mauser, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges biologist: The settlement provides the refuges with “a big improvement over the situation we’ve been in. A guaranteed allocation of water, that’s the big thing we’ve wanted to see, especially on the Lower Klamath refuge.”
Under the proposal, the refuges would be guaranteed between 48,000 and 60,000 acre-feet of water, based on a sliding scale depending on water supply. He said the 48,000 figure is “somewhat less than we generally use,” but the water would be assured. At present, the refuges have no guaranteed water supply.
Under the agreement the refuges would continue to lease 20,000 acres to local farmers. The refuge would receive 20 percent of the lease revenues, or about $200,000 a year, which would be used for conservation projects on the refuges. The refuges currently receive none of the revenues.
Ron Cole, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges manager: Providing assured water to the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges fulfills promises made when the Lower Klamath was established as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge 100 years ago.
“Teddy Roosevelt would have been pretty pleased,” he said, referring to the president who created the refuge. “We’re keeping a promise they made, not only to the 400-plus species of wildlife, but to the people.”
Cole said the cooperative effort “with our neighbors provides us that avenue where we can work together on a lot of things. That support is important.”
Edward Bartell, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users: Bartell, who represents some off-project irrigators who are not part of the Klamath Reclamation Project, termed the proposed settlement “devastating … This is nothing remotely representing a settlement.”
He said off-project water users farm more than 100,000 acres in the Hildebrand, Swan Lake, Sprague River, Fort Klamath and Upper Klamath Lake regions. The land is used for strawberry nurseries, alfalfa and cattle.
The group supported settlement talks, but Bartell said “efforts to meet all parties needs have rapidly degenerated into a proposed settlement that benefits only a select few and will be devastating for our members and others … Efforts to reach a fair and balanced settlement have been soundly rejected in favor of attacking the interests of various upper basin irrigators who were not allowed to be at the table.” He claimed it would force the retirement of more than 18,000 acres of farming and ranch lands.
Roger Nicholson, president of Resource Conservancy: Nicholson represents upper Klamath Basin irrigators who rely on water from Upper Klamath Lake and the Williamson, Sprague and Wood rivers. He said the settlement group “just threw us aside … It’s very, very bad.”
The Resource Conservancy represents ranchers and farmers on about 50,000 irrigated acres but Nicholson said the group was denied participation in the settlement process.
He said a provision to provide an additional 30,000 acre-feet of water comes after thousands of acres were provided since 2001.
“We’re tired of litigation and we’re tired of politics,” he said. “We just want to go home and farm. We can’t with this. It would kill our community.”
Paul Vogel, spokesman for PacifiCorp: Vogel said it’s difficult to consider Tuesday’s announcement a settlement when PacifiCorp didn’t have a seat at the table. Vogel said he only learned what was in the settlement document from a media representative who called for his opinion.
“One questions what was settled,” he said. “When the license holder and several hundred thousand customers didn’t have a seat at the table, that is irresponsible. We initiated settlement talks three years ago. To have no part in crafting of this document, it really makes you ask yourself what substance there is to it.
Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association executive director: “From our perspective it is a victory for Klamath Basin agriculture, for the refuges and for fish. We have to look at what the alternatives are for us. If you're an irrigator on the Klamath Project, the status quo is a frightening place to
Addington said the agreement achieves three goals his organization has long sought — a reliable source of water, stable power costs, and regulatory protection from new species, such as salmon, being re-introduced to the Upper Klamath Basin.
John Elliott, Klamath County commissioner: Elliott reserved comment on the settlement agreement. While he participated in negotiations, he had yet to review the document since a final round of revisions were made.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski: The governor supports the settlement agreement and commended those involved at the local level looking for solutions, said Rem Nivens, Kulongoski’s spokesman.
He acknowledged there are hurdles, such as an agreement with PacifiCorp. After that and other obstacles are cleared, Nivens said the governor would look into organizing a water summit in Klamath Falls that he announced during the fall 2006 gubernatorial election.
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited: “We have a unique opportunity for a business deal that delivers advantage to the fish and benefit to PacifiCorp. We can and should do both.”
Salmon won’t be the only species of fish to benefit from changes advocated in the settlement, he said.
“The fish benefit will run to salmon, steelhead and the resident trout species, the red band. A trout loves good riparian habitat just as salmon does, it likes to migrate freely within its habitat just like salmon and steelhead do. “I believe it’s possible to find a business deal that is good for the fish and good for (PacifiCorp).”
State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls: Whitsett said concerns he raised Saturday about the settlement appear well founded, but said he had not reviewed the document yet.
The senator said in a town hall meeting that preliminary reports about the agreement did not include proposals for increased water storage and that it came with a price tag of about $1 billion. Further, he said the agreement does not follow Oregon water law and will end up being determined by the courts.
“There are definite winners and losers,” he said.
Pablo Arroyave , Bureau of Reclamation regional director: Arroyave said the agency does not take a position for or against the settlement agreement.
“Reclamation’s role has been to represent and protect interests of our stakeholders during years of discussion of this very important agreement,” he said.
Arroyave noted the settlement would require legislation, and Reclamation will continue to support its members in that avenue. “We’ve been involved in "discussions and there have been potential good solutions,” he said.
Greg Hurner, California Fish and Game Service: Hurner said his organization was glad to participate in the settlement process and is excited to have it at this stage and before the public.
California Fish and Game officials are reviewing the document thoroughly but do support the settlement stakeholders’ efforts.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.: Walden commended those involved in settlement negotiations while recognizing the challenges ahead. He said he always felt the best solution to the region’s troubles would come at the local level.
“The groups that have stuck with these difficult negotiations deserve a medal,” he said in a press release. The representative pledged to work with his colleagues in Congress to bring the proposed agreement to fulfillment.
U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.: Smith applauded local efforts to establish a settlement agreement for the Klamath River watershed. “This is a complex and multifaceted plan and I look forward to feedback from farmers, tribes, fishermen and all stakeholders involved,” he said in a press release.
Klamath Tribes: The Klamath Tribal Council will recommend its General Council approve the settlement agreement. While acknowledging PacifiCorp’s cooperation is required before the agreement can be implemented, tribal representatives said its passage would usher in a new era for the Klamath Basin.
“We call on the company to help us solve one of the West’s most complex and bitter water wars,” said Jeff Mitchell, a tribal councilman.
Steve Rothert, director of the California office of American Rivers: “We have a plan to put the Klamath Basin back together ecologically as well as economically, but we can’t do it without PacifiCorp as a partner. We are optimistic we can forge that partnership with the company in coming weeks.”
He called the agreement “historic,” and said it was achieved because “many people abandoned baggage from past battles.”
Clifford Lyle Marshall, tribal chairman for the Hoopa Valley Tribe of northern California: He said the tribe won’t endorse the settlement because it lacks adequate water assurances for fish.
“What began as dam removal negotiations got turned into a water deal,” he said. “The terms of this so-called restoration agreement make the right to divert water for irrigation the top priority, trumping salmon water needs and the best available science on the river.”
Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe of California: Environmentalists as well as farmers and fishermen should applaud the agreement, he said.
“I don’t understand how any environmental group can’t support the largest dam removal project in the history of the world,” he said. Tucker added that groups with “extremist view are never going to be happy.” He said the scope and depth of the agreement is impressive.
John DeVoe, executive director of Waterwatch of Oregon: DeVoe said the group was “involuntarily removed” from the talks.
“This is a deal that has certain guarantees for agriculture, but does not guarantee any amount of water for salmon in the Klamath River. This river has been compromised to death. What the river needs is to stop the compromises and start the restoration.”
The agreement provides for stream flows that are less than the current biological opinion, he said. It does not provide for increased water for the national wildlife refuges, he said, adding, “In drought years it takes water away from the refuges and puts them at risk.”