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Representative urges patience about water agreement

Klamath Falls Herald and News

February 24, 2008
   U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., urged people to be patient about the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and spoke of hurdles facing renewal of federal timber payments to Klamath County. 

   Stakeholders released the proposed agreement Jan. 15 after two-and-a-half years of negotiations. If approved, it would allocate water in the Klamath River watershed among irrigators, tribes, fishermen and conservationists. 

   It also seeks removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp. 

   Walden said he spoke with officials in the U.S. Department of the Interior Friday morning about the agreement. 

   He said he supports the collaborative efforts that created the agreement, but time is needed to answer questions from those who were not at the table for the whole process. 

   “It’s going to take time and it needs time,” he said. 

   Walden also said he is glad to see Klamath County officials planning for the potential loss of $15 million to general and road funds from federal timber payments. 

   The payments are part of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act. The legislation provides compensation to rural counties who saw a cut in timber production from environmental regulations. 

   President George W. Bush’s proposed budget includes a proposal to extend the payments, though Walden said he was unsure for how long and at what level. 

   Renewal is not certain. He and other federal lawmakers are looking for ways to address the payments and there isn’t much money available to do so. 

   “My level of optimism is not high,” he said.
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