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County faces deadline on settlement
Commissioners have until Feb. 9 to take a position
By Ty Beaver January 15, 2010
Klamath County commissioners must decide by Feb. 9 whether to support or reject a water settlement agreement for the Klamath Basin.
Those attending a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Klamath County Government Center urged commissioners to get public input before making a decision on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
The final draft of the agreement was released last week. It aims to settle water right disputes among stakeholders in the Klamath River Basin. The document also calls for removal of four Klamath River dams and affordable power for irrigators, as well as provides a provision giving the Klamath Tribes land in northern Klamath County known as the Mazama Tree Farm.
The board announced it would ask questions of an undetermined group of stakeholders during a public meeting Feb. 8 before making a decision. The Feb. 9 decision deadline is the end of a 30-day review period. At that time, stakeholders can present the water agreement to federal lawmakers.
“We have just begun to read the final draft,” Commissioner Cheryl Hukill said.
But Tom Mallams, an off-Project irrigator and opponent of the agreement, criticized the planned format of the Feb. 8 meeting, and told commissioners they needed to set aside time for public input.
Hukill said there wouldn’t be time..
“We have to have our questions answered since we’re the ones signing the document,” she said.
Comissioner Al Switzer said the board would discuss and make its decision on the agreement publicly as required by public meeting laws.
Mallams was among three residents at the town hall who talked to commissioners about the restoration agreement. About two dozen people attended.
Steve Repalyea, vice chairman of the Klamath Basin Alliance, said he was not pleased with the agreement because it could still be overridden by the federal Endangered Species Act. He also didn’t like the portion of the document that provides land in northern Klamath County to the Klamath Tribes.
Repalyea said he also doubted whether any salmon would make it to Upper Klamath Lake even if four Klamath River dams were removed.
Commissioners said they were still reading through the final version and did not comment on Repalyea’s concerns.
But Commissioner John Elliott did say there wasn’t anything commissioners could do about the Endangered Species Act.
“We’re not Congress,” he said. “They’re the only people who can do anything with the ESA. Unfortunately, a lot of those folks are east of the Mississippi.”
Mallams, president of the Klamath Off Project Water Users, asked Elliott if he was going to disclose information about the meetings he attended on the restoration agreement, adding that “upsetting” and “disturbing” things were said that shouldn’t be hidden from the public.
“I think the public needs to know what went on behind those closed doors,” Mallams said.
Elliott said no one was hiding anything from the public, and that some of the meetings were brainstorming sessions meant to generate ideas. He added that those involved in the meetings were contractually prevented from discussing what happened .
“I signed the confidentiality agreement and I intend to abide by it,” Elliott said.
Switzer said that, while he opposes the concept of dam removal, the dams are not county property and PacifiCorp has agreed to remove them if it’s deemed feasible.
Page Updated: Saturday January 16, 2010 02:15 AM Pacific
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