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Lawmakers mull next steps after water forums

Area legislators say they sense frustration over dams and water
 by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 11/20/09

     Three state lawmakers say they sensed frustration from those speaking about a Klamath River dam removal agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement in public forums last week at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.

   “Until the hearing I had not felt the personal emotional discomfort and distress that the process … has on the farmers, ranchers and their families,” said state Rep. George Gilman, R-Medford, in an e-mail.  

   Next steps

   But two of the lawmakers said they don’t plan to take any action following the hearings, and likely will wait to see the final draft of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

   “I think the logical thing for elected lawmakers to do would be to provide another forum,” said state Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls.

   The lawmakers arranged the forums to hear public comment on the proposed water settlement and related dam removal agreement, which seek to resolve conflicts over water in the Klamath River watershed.

   Whitsett and state   Rep. Bill Garrard, R Klamath Falls, said they were disappointed that proponents of the agreements did not attend the public forums. Proponents had said they didn’t view the forums as the appropriate place and time to discuss the agreements.

   Between 250 to 300 people attended, with more than 80 commenting and dozens more submitting written testimony, the lawmakers said. Nearly everyone spoke against dam removal and the restoration agreement.

   “The forum was constructive and at least got one side’s view out,” Garrard said.  

   Gilman said he thinks the settlement process needs to be reopened, and he will do anything he can to stop the agreements.

   Garrard and Whitsett don’t see an easy next step, as there is little they can do in regard to dam removal because it rests primarily at the federal level. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement also isn’t complete and the final draft needs to be seen before more can be done.  

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