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Commissioners push for more water storage

Elliott will attend meetings aimed at settling water disagreements

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News April 9, 2009

Klamath County commissioners will again participate in meetings about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, saying they plan to push for more water storage.

Commissioners met briefly Wednesday and unanimously agreed to have Commissioner John Elliott attend meetings among stakeholders involved in the agreement. Meetings began Wednesday in Sacramento. Elliott, who was in Sacramento, participated in the commissioners’ meeting by telephone.

Proponents of the agreement, which seeks to settle water disputes between fishermen, farmers, tribes and environmentalists, have said the meeting could yield a final draft of the document.

Elliott regularly attended meetings with stakeholders before, but stopped doing so after county counsel Dan Bunch raised concerns about an elected official participating in closed-door and confidential meetings. Bunch said it’s now clear the county can participate, but it must follow public records laws.

“I think the county’s participation is going to be difficult, it’s going to be unwieldy, but legally it can be done,” Bunch said.

Opponents and proponents of the restoration agreement attended commissioner meetings the past two weeks to provide updates. Along with those updates, both sides called for commissioners to be more involved in the agreement discussions.

“Both sides have asked us to please participate so we know what is going on,” Commissioner Cheryl Hukill said.

Bunch said that, after conversations with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office, he concluded the county could participate in the discussions and that signing a confidentiality agreement would not force the county to sign the final restoration agreement.

He noted, though, and the attorney general’s office agreed, that the confidentiality agreement could not prevent the county from responding to public requests for any documents the county obtains in the discussions.

Switzer noted that Elliott will participate in the talks as a county agent, but he cannot bind the county to any decision without meeting with and getting approval of the other commissioners.

Side Bar: About the Restoration Agreement

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