Multitude of issues meet at Klamath
(KBC NOTE: the settlement
'agreement' was supposed to be public Jan. 2008, however since
draft 11, it has been negotiated extensively in close-door
meetings, Reps have been lobbied by the few at the settlement
table, Calif and Oregon governors and PacifiCorp have agreed to
dam removal pending studies and funding, and Senate Bill 76 is
Oregon legislation to fund dam removal. NO public information,
input...no transparency. We the public aren't allowed to read
what rights the negotiators have given away. Siskiyou Co, where
3 of the 4 hydrodams are located, is opposed to the 'agreement'.
1850 community members are opposed to this being rammed down
their throats in top-down force with no regard for the people's
Basinís stakeholders include farmers,
fishermen, tribes, environmentalists
Mateusz Perkowski Capital Press February 12, 2009
Fields of onions grow in Klamath Basin. A wide range of groups
trying to steer the future of water use in the region are trying
to hammer out a unified agreement to guide their way forward. -
Mark Rozin/Capital Press It is a controversy that exemplifies
the complexity of water management in the West.
Bundled together as the "Klamath Basin" issue, it is in
actuality a web of issues, each revolving around water and
related to the other.
The multitude of agencies and groups negotiating over the future
of the Klamath Basin expect to hammer out a unified deal that
would encompass previous truce agreements aimed at resolving
water disputes in the region.
A year ago, the Klamath Water Users Association completed a
long-awaited settlement with tribes, fishermen and
conservationists to resolve litigation over water rights among
That plan, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, called for
$985 million in public and non-governmental funding for
environmental restoration and other projects, as well as the
removal of four dams along the Klamath River to restore fish
PacifiCorp, which owns the four dams, was initially reluctant to
take down the structures.
2008, however, the firm ended up agreeing to a tentative deal
with the federal government and the state governments of Oregon
and California. Under that Agreement in Principle, dam removal
would be completed by 2020.
The groups involved in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
and the Agreement in Principle plan to stitch together the two
deals by June, said Greg Addington, executive director of KWUA.
"The focus now is to get one final agreement that incorporates
the two," he said.
Although the parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement
that prevents them from disclosing specifics, Addington said
that reconciling the two documents isn't resulting in any
"I don't really see any inconsistency between the two," he said.
"It's just a matter of how you get from A to B."
Apart from fusing the two agreements, the participants expect to
flesh out details that will guide water management in the
region, such as how irrigation and in-stream water needs will be
balanced in the event of a drought, Addington said.
"That's one of the things that didn't get finished in the KBRA,"
California's Siskiyou County, which has opposed taking down the
dams, will also have a seat at the table to ensure that the
removal doesn't have negative consequences for area residents.
"This would be the largest dam-removal project in the U.S., and
we believe it should have some robust, peer-reviewed studies
done on it," said Marcia Armstrong, a board supervisor for the
Siskiyou County fears that sediments trapped behind the dams
contain toxins that could pose a threat to the public health and
the environment if released into the water, she said.
"You could poison that entire river," she said.
Armstrong said she is dissatisfied with the sediment studies
that have been conducted so far, characterizing them as
experimental and inconclusive. The risk posed by the sediment
should be analyzed without the preset agenda of dam removal, she
Siskiyou County has agreed to participate in the discussions
among settlement groups, government agencies and PacifiCorp, but
the closed-door nature of the talks is disturbing, Armstrong
"It's a very unfair, unbalanced and secretive process, which is
not the way the government is supposed to operate," she said.
Tom Mallams, a hay farmer and president of the Klamath
Off-Project Water Users, said his group has essentially been
excluded from the negotiations.
The Klamath Off-Project Water Users say they do not believe dam
removal is a cost-effective option for PacifiCorp ratepayers,
and the group's refusal to back down has cost it a seat at the
table, he said.
"They don't want our participation because we don't follow the
precepts of what they want to do," said Mallams.
The cost of dam removal will be expensive - as high as $450
million - but it's being pushed forward by government agencies
that see the federally funded restoration projects as a "cash
cow," he said.
"That's what's driving this whole process, is money," said
In light of the current economic climate, obtaining
congressional funding for projects outlined in the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement will be a challenge, but maintaining the
status quo is also expensive, said Jim Mitchell, a council
member of the Klamath tribes.
Living with an uncertain water supply and damaged fisheries
takes its financial toll on the community, he said.
"You've got to look at the cost of not doing anything," said
Mitchell. "It affects the consumer, it affects the public and it
affects the economy."
As for the lack of transparency involved in the negotiations,
KWUA's Addington agreed the circumstances are not ideal.
"I also know that it would never happen if it was a wide-open
process," he said.
At this point, it's necessary to keep the talks private so the
parties can negotiate freely, said Addington.
Once the details are settled, the agreement will be aired out
during state and federal government processes required to win
funding and approval for removing the dams, he said.
"It's no doubt going to test everybody's resolve," said
Addington. At this point, though, the coalition between the
once-feuding parties is strong, he said.
"We really have nothing to lose here," said Addington. "We've
been in court, we've been in public relations battles, we've
been in political battles, and nothing seems to work."