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Governor addresses local issues

H&N photo by Ty Beaver Gov. Ted Kulongoski talks about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement in his Salem office Thursday. The governor discussed issues impacting the Klamath Basin.

Kulongoski speaks about water, timber, jobs

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 6/6/09

SALEM — Water. Timber. The economy.

During an interview with the Herald and News Thursday, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski spoke about issues impacting the Klamath Basin: the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, timberlands devastated by a pine beetle infestation and jobs in an economic downturn.

Are you concerned about the continuing opposition to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement? Do you think it will slow or derail it?

Kulongoski said he thinks most people in the Basin want a conclusion to the conflicts over water resources for farmers, fishermen, tribes and conservationists. The status quo can’t continue.

But the governor said even if there is a final restoration agreement that is signed and implemented, there will always be opposition and differences of opinion. He said that the real conflict is between people wanting everything to stay the same and those willing to accept change.

“I don’t think a final agreement will mean consensus in the Basin,” he said.

He is confident state legislation allowing Portland-based PacifiCorp to raise its Oregon customers’ power bills by about $1.50 per month will receive final approval from the House before reaching his desk.

Fire season has officially begun. Klamath and Lake counties are still contending with the potential of a very damaging fire on federal lands, fueled by timber killed by a pine beetle infestation. What is the state doing to address the situation?

The governor, a fishing enthusiast familiar with Deadhorse Lake in the Gearhart Wilderness area, has visited areas impacted by the infestation. He said he understands the potential for disaster in the region, should lightning start a forest fire.

The state rejected an earlier request from Klamath County commissioners to declare an emergency for the area — not because it isn’t possible but because it didn’t meet the standards for such action.

The state is attempting to partner with the federal government on managing those forests and mitigating the danger. Oregon was the first state to partner with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in such a way and Kulongoski said he’s also spoken with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar about it, as well as private landowners.

“This is not an infestation on just federal land,” he said.

You announced, during a speech in Portland several weeks ago, a proposal to create a jobs program similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression era to put some Oregonians back to work. What other details do you have on that and how would it impact Klamath County?

Kulongoski said he initially conceived using $90 million to create up to 12,000 jobs, such as brush clearing and working for food banks, for the next three to six months.

However, he said, state legislators have raised legitimate concerns, such as waiting to see whether the federal government extends unemployment benefits that are set to expire in September. An extension could determine whether some money could be held over for jobs in 2010.

There also have been questions about helping the unemployed advance their job training so they’ll be better positioned when the economy recovers.

The governor couldn’t say how many jobs would come to Klamath County but his office has said there’d be a push for the majority to go to the worst hit counties.

Kulongoski said the jobs would be created through local governments, nonprofits and even churches so people are doing a job that provides a needed public service.

“A job is a paycheck, but it’s also a human dignity issue,” he said.

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