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Leaders receive water update

Klamath County Commissioners quiz settlement proponents

by Ty Beaver, March 20, 2009 Herald and News

Al Switzer and Cheryl Hukill want to know why a project for off-stream storage wasn’t included in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

It was one of a number of questions Klamath County commissioners had about the restoration agreement when they met with proponents Wednesday for an update. The agreement seeks to settle water issues among irrigators, coatal fishermen, tribes and environmental groups.

Of the three counties directly impacted, Klamath County is the only one that has not taken a position for or against it.

Del Norte County supervisors endorsed the agreement while Siskiyou County supervisors opposed it.

Switzer and Hukill met with Bob Gasser, owner of Klamath Basin Fertilizer; Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Basin Water Users Association; Becky Hyde, an off-Project irrigator; and Steve Kandra and Luther Horsley, both members of the water users board.

The commissioners told the group they were concerned about the amount of money needed to implement the agreement.

They also asked about the certainty of water available for irrigation and if there would be any further changes to the agreement.

Proponents responded that the agreement would provide a level of stability for the irrigator community not yet attainable.

Hukill and Sw itzer said they had misgivings about whether the Klamath Basin community could unite behind the agreement.

“I’m not looking for political cover, I’m just trying to give you a dose of political reality,” Switzer said.

Klamath County’s Natural Resource Advisory Council voted against the agreement, but commissioners have refused to take a stance. They no longer attend confidential meetings on the agreement after county counsel Dan Bunch questioned whether an elected official could attend such meetings and keep what was said private.

The meeting was arranged after proponents asked for a time to update the commissioners on where the agreement stood.

Water storage

Switzer and Hukill questioned whether increased water storage, particularly at Long Lake, would be a more productive way to guarantee irrigation stability for Basin farmers.

Since the agreement already implies that irrigators in the Klamath Reclamation Project will be short 100,000 acre feet of water in the driest years, why not use money for the agreement to build more storage, instead of having irrigators compensated for idling land, they said.

Kandra, who is an on-Project irrigator, said increasing water storage wouldn’t have addressed issues such as water quality, habitat and fish passage. Hyde told the commissioners it also would be impossible to build up storage given present water flows needed for fish.

Gasser said that irrigators, while having a smaller maximum amount of water available under the agreement, would have a set amount that would be guaranteed, ensuring a water shutoff as occurred in 2001 would not happen again.

Hukill said she has had a lot of questions about when a final draft of the agreement would be available. Proponents said a new draft will be released, but would only have minor changes. Major aspects such as dam removal would not be changed.


The commissioners said they were encouraged by some developments. The agreement specifies irrigators could receive an additional 10,000 acre feet of water per year if off-stream water storage is built.

Switzer said he had also spoken with a Sprague River rancher who said progress was being made with the Klamath Tribes to guarantee irrigators in the area still have access to water.

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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