Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Health care, water hot topics; Senator speaks with Basin residents at town hall meeting

H&N photo by Ty Beaver
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., speaks during Memorial Day services Monday in Klamath Falls. He met with local residents during a town hall meeting Tuesday.
May 27, 2009 Herald and News by Ty Beaver

Health care and water issues were dominant topics at a town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley Tuesday at Oregon Institute of Technology.

Klamath Basin residents asked the senator about his efforts to provide medical coverage and services to those unable to obtain them. Irrigators off the Klamath Reclamation Project voiced their opposition to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and encouraged Merkley to study the document.

Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, had been in the Klamath Basin since Monday when he spoke at a Memorial Day event in Veterans Memorial Park. He said he wants to visit with residents in every part of the state.

“There’s nothing like firsthand conversation,” he said.

David Hedelman, a board member of Klamath Open Door Family Practice, said he was most concerned about people having access to health care and asked how the senator was addressing the issue.

Merkley said he is sponsoring a bill that would quadruple funding to federally qualified health centers, which includes Klamath Open Door. He said there also is a need for public health care to give U.S. residents an option, and told attendees that he almost didn’t run for the Senate because his family would have had no health care if he didn’t get elected.

“It really does change your options,” he said.

Off-project irrigators, including Ambrose McAuliffe and Linda Long, asked Merkley to weigh in on the restoration agreement, which seeks to solve water disputes between fishermen, farmers, tribes and environmentalists.

Those irrigators and others said they were being ignored and marginalized in the process and would end up less than whole if the agreement goes through. They also pointed out how a recent survey showed strong opposition to aspects of the agreement.

“No one else thinks about the north end of the lake,” Long said.

Local process

Merkley said he expected to hear a lot about water during his visit to the Basin, and added he was glad there was conversation aimed at avoiding litigation.

But, he said, the concerns voiced Tuesday show there are still puzzle pieces missing.

“This being a local process, I don’t want to jump in the middle of it,” he said.

Eventually, the agreement will go before federal lawmakers, and he and others in Congress will need input to determine its future, Merkley said.
Home Contact


              Page Updated: Friday May 29, 2009 02:25 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2009, All Rights Reserved