Agreement could be ratified as early as February;
critics condemn concessions
LIES, Capital Press 1/14/10
Klamath Basin farmers, Indian tribes, fishing
groups and conservationists have released for public
review a restoration agreement designed to provide a
long-term water supply for Klamath Basin farmers and
The plan, three years in the making, could be
ratified as early as next month.
Its ultimate success is contingent upon several
factors, said Greg Addington, executive director of
the Klamath Water Users Association, including
federal and state funding, congressional and
executive branch approval and removal of four lower
Klamath River dams.
Also for the plan to work, stakeholders need a
critical mass of Klamath Basin water users to sign
on, Addington said.
The plan includes an agreement for landowners to
cede irrigation water for conservation purposes in
low-water years under assurances they will have full
access to water in high-water years.
And it calls for the acquisition of 30,000
acre-feet of water in the upper basin -- enough
water to irrigate 18,000 acres of pasture land. And
it requires participating landowners to support
efforts to improve wildlife habitat.
"Our goal was to ensure the long-term viability
of irrigated agriculture inside and outside the
Klamath Project," Addington said. "It's now up to
our members to decide if they are better off with or
without (the agreement).
"That's our focus over the next 30 days --
talking to membership and others in the community,
and explaining what has happened, what it means and
how it will affect them," he said.
Tom Mallams, president of the Klamath Off Project
Water Users Association, said the association "can't
sign the agreement in its present form." Mallams
said off-project farmers and ranchers are getting
little in return for ceding rights to a substantial
amount of water.
"The project irrigators are always saying the
plan is better than the status quo," Mallams said.
"If this is implemented as it's written, I think we
will look back and say the status quo wasn't so bad
Karl Scronce, president of the Upper Klamath
Water Users Association, disagreed. The agreement
ensures some water delivery even in low-water years,
he said, which is better than the alternative.
"With river flow requirements as high as they are
in the current biological opinion and the lake level
minimum requirements where they are, I think
agriculture could be in severe trouble without the
agreement," Scronce said.
More than two dozen organizations were involved
in crafting the agreement, including three tribes,
three Oregon agencies and two California agencies,
four counties, four federal agencies, fish and
conservation groups and several irrigation
The earliest the agreement could go into effect
is 2012, Addington said, given that federal agencies
already are devising their 2011 budgets.