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U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., fielded tough questions in Klamath Falls from more than 80 community members regarding a revised Clean Water Act he co-sponsored, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and other issues.
Senator (Wyden) listens to water law concerns
Sen. Wyden’s staff presented with 1,800 signatures against Klamath deal

by Jacqui Krizo For the Capital Press 3/6/09

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Agricultural community members posed questions about the Clean Water Act and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden in Klamath Falls at his annual town hall meeting.

Klamath Water Users Association member Dave Solem said irrigators oppose the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 now before Congress. The bill's numbers are HR2421 and S1870.

Since 1972, Congress has consistently reauthorized the act, which places "navigable" waters under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. By removing the word "navigable," the rewrite would give the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all bodies of water.

Wyden co-sponsored the legislation, along with 18 other senators. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has also spoken in support of the legislation.

When Solem asked Wyden what he thought would happen with this legislation, Wyden said, "We think it's deficient and needs corrected."

Klamath Basin

Also at the January town hall meeting, Stephen Rapalyea of Chiloquin presented Wyden's staff with 1,800 stakeholders' signatures opposing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Members of the Karuk Tribe, Klamath Basin Alliance, Off-Project Irrigators and Siskiyou County combined their petitions to give to the senator, and they plan to take their concerns to their California representatives.

Among the issues the petitioners oppose in the agreement are:

• Removal of dams, which provide electricity to 70,000 households, at Oregon taxpayers' expense and the expense of the Siskiyou County economy.

• Providing land to the Klamath Tribes, which they sold, that may be placed in a tax-exempt trust.

• Retirement of 30,000 acre feet of off-project water rights without giving Resource Conservancy, representing 50,000 acres, a seat at the table.

Of 150,000 acres of surface-irrigable land in the area, government agencies and the Nature Conservancy have already acquired 100,000 acres.

Wyden said his question to the stakeholders at the settlement table would be how they plan to pay for what they are advocating, but he said he will work with them.

"What about the power ratepayers? We've had no voice," asked Bill Adams, Klamath Falls city council member. "Taking out the hydroelectric project goes against green renewable power."

"I think government had done too much behind closed doors," Wyden said. "Government hasn't done enough to listen."

The agreement assigns all costs of dam removal, decommissioning, past and future relicensing, recovery of Pacifi-Corp undepreciated assets, changes in operation of the dams prior to, and replacement resources following removal, and potential environmental liability, to PacifiCorp ratepayers in Oregon and California.

Since 90 percent of those ratepayers live in Oregon, that percentage of all the costs will be paid by Oregon PacifiCorp's 500,000 ratepayers.

The total cost of dam removal and the required environmental cleanup has been estimated at as much as $4 billion.

Three of the four dams are in California.
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