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Siskiyou County hears comments
 
Tribal spokesmen, farmers urged support of Klamath water agreement
 
Herald & News http://www.heraldandnews.com

By LEE JUILLERAT February 22, 2008


   YREKA. Tulelake Basin farmers, Klamath and Karuk tribal spokesmen and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials pressed Siskiyou County supervisors to support the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement Tuesday during a three-hour public hearing. 

   The supervisors did not make a decision, and scheduled another hearing for March 18. 

   Proponents of the water settlement were outnumbered by opponents, who testified that removal of four PacifiCorp dams would decrease property values and destroy their area's economy. 

   Stakeholders released the 256-page document Jan. 15 after two and-a-half years of negotiations. It allocates water in the Klamath River Basin among tribes, irrigators, fisheries and conservationists. It also advocates the removal of four hydroelectric dams owned and operated by PacifiCorp, a Portland-based power company. 

   More than 150 people attended the afternoon session at the Yreka Community Theater, and about 60 testified. The strongest opposition came from residents of the Copco Lake community on the Klamath River. If the dams, especially Copco, are removed, the recreational community largely consisting of retirees would see significant property value decreases because the lake would no longer exist. 

   Let's get these dams relicensed so we can get on with our lives' said Ruth Walker, president of the Copco Lake Fire Department auxiliary. 

   Walker was referring to ongoing relicensing talks on PacifiCorp's Klamath hydroelectric project. The politics of water is showing us how vulnerable we are. 

   Other complaints 

   Other Copco Lake residents claimed removal of the dams, including Copco, the northernmost PacifiCorp dam, will increase algae, create warmer water, result in the loss of clean energy and eliminate recreation. 

   You can send this settlement book to replace the Sears catalogue in the little house out back, said Copco Lake resident Robert Davis. 

   In often emotional testimony, other Copco Lake residents said they agreed with Shasta tribal leaders who say a significant number of salmon never reached the Upper Klamath Basin . They also warned of silt problems, disputed claims that Klamath River water is sometimes toxic and said the river will become a "meandering ditch" if dams are removed. 

   Proponents told the supervisors that they could support the settlement without supporting dam removal. 

   But stakeholders have said the agreement hinges on PacifiCorp agreeing to remove the four dams. 

   Phil Detrick, lead negotiator in settlement talks for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tried to separate the proposed settlement from dam removal, but it was the targeted issue. 

   Supervisors chairman Bill Overton repeatedly said the hearing was about dam removal, and people signing up to speak were asked to indicate if they favor or opposed removal. 

   In favor of settlement 

   Tulelake-area farmer Marshall Staunton spoke in favor of the settlement, and others echoed Staunton, who repeated his position. 

   Speaking in favor the agreement were Detrich, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges manager Ron Cole, Klamath Tribes spokesman Jeff Mitchell, California Trout representative Curtis Knight, Happy Camp residents Donna and Randy Boyd, Karuk Tribe spokesman Craig Tucker and Klamath Riverkeeper Regina Chichizola. 

   Discussion welcomed 

   Kandra said Klamath Water Users would welcome discussions with members of Shasta and other county irrigation districts that are concerned they would face undetermined consequences if the settlement were approved. 

   Mitchell offered talks with the Shasta Tribe, which opposes the agreement and claims salmon never reached the Upper Basin. Knight, echoing others favoring the settlement, said, "the status quo simply isn't working.

   The Boyds, who live along the Klamath near the community of Happy Camp, told supervisors they were more concerned about water quality than
their whitewater recreation business. Water quality sometimes results in health department warnings not to swim in the Klamath during summer.
 
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