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Final water deal near
The J.C. Boyle dam is one of four Klamath River dams that could be removed under the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. AP file photo Document could go public after meetings this week in Sacramento
By Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/5/10
First of two parts
Early 2008: The proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was unveiled.
Today: Stakeholders could release a final agreement soon after they meet in Sacramento Wednesday and Thursday.
That agreement, they say, could then be used by state and federal lawmakers to draft legislation aimed at protecting fisheries, removing four dams on the Klamath River and providing water and affordable power rates to irrigators.
A related agreement with PacifiCorp would remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
Some stakeholders call completion of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement a fulfillment of goals set long ago. Others say they still have concerns with the document, and some even think it will destroy the Basin.
Even with a final document, their efforts will still depend upon the government’s decision and ability to implement and fund its provisions.
“I view it like having a baby,” said Glen Spain, northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “It doesn’t end after you bring the baby home from the hospital.”
Stakeholders worked since early December to complete the document. Meetings covering several days took place in Portland and then Sacramento, but legal questions and other revisions prevented them from finishing.
Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said he’s not surprised it’s taken this long to reach this point.
“The problem is how you condense four to five years of discussion into a document,” he said.
The commissioner said he still has some concerns about the restoration agreement, though he declined to say what those were or what changes he’s proposing because of the confidentiality agreement stakeholders are bound to until the document is released.
Elliott said he always expected there to be some final document after the years of discussion. What he sees as the biggest challenge for Oregon and California lawmakers and as members to Congress is to understand the agreement and its ramifications well enough to enact legislation.
Despite guarded optimism following meetings in Portland last month, Tom Mallams, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project and president of the Klamath Off Project Water Users, said the present version of the agreement does not include his hoped-for revisions.
“I was grasping at straws probably,” he said. “I was thrown back into reality.”
Mallams said he was appalled at some of the things included during in the latest round of meetings. He added his group continues to be disregarded in discussions or accused of hindering progress.
“They’ve drawn a line, they don’t want us to participate,” he said.
Others, such as Spain and Jeff Mitchell, Klamath tribal council member, said they expect the final document to be released soon after this week’s meetings in Sacramento.
“We’ve all worked real hard to create as balanced a document as we can,” Mitchell said.
At the same time, they acknowledge that having a final document does not mean the process is over. State and federal legislation and funding is necessary to implement the restoration agreement. Progress must continue, though.
“I think we have no choice but to go forward,” Spain said.
Page Updated: Wednesday January 06, 2010 02:10 AM Pacific
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