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Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
Senator to push for KBRA
  Jeff Merkley was first federal lawmaker to back water agreement
  By TY BEAVER, Herald and News 2/28/10 
     U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley says he never expected something like the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to come to fruition.

   Now that the landmark agreement has been signed the majority of stakeholders who drafted it, he is Oregon’s first federal lawmaker to publicly support it.

   “I’m going to do everything I can as a U.S. senator to facilitate what needs to happen at the federal level,” the Oregon Democrat said during a town hall meeting Saturday in Klamath Falls.

   Merkley said the document is complex and there is still a lot of work to do in Washington, D.C., to get legislation passed and funded.

   More than 100 people attended Saturday’s event at Oregon Institute of Technology’s auditorium. While the senator dealt with a number of topics, the restoration agreement and a related Klamath River dam removal agreement were among his primary talking points.  

   The restoration agreement aims to resolve the Basin’s disputes over water for agriculture, endangered fish species and the environment, by spending about $1.5 billion to remove four dams, conduct habitat restoration and other provisions.

   Pro and con

   One proponent of the restoration agreement thanked Merkley for his support of the document.

   But Tom Mallams, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, told the senator he was disappointed in his decision to support the restoration agreement, given local opposition to dam removal and other concerns.

   “This whole process put the cart before the horse,” he said.

   Merkley said the document is complex but worth supporting. He later added that when he visited the Basin a year ago and met with   stakeholders, he was impressed by the level of cooperation, and that stakeholders were willing to sacrifice some things to bring stability.

   “It seemed to me there was a window of opportunity to weave these things together,” he said.

   Next steps

   Little has happened at the federal level regarding the restoration agreement, he said. Few federal lawmakers outside of Oregon and California, at least in the   Senate, are aware of it and what it would do.

   Much needs to be done to line up support, both for the legislative and financial aspects of the document.

   “A lot’s going to happen in short order now that the document is signed,” Merkley said.

   The senator added there also needs to be focus on the short term, such as the pending water year with water supplies in low supply.  
  H&N photo by Andrew Mariman

   U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley fields questions from Basin residents Saturday on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, health care and the economy during a town hall meeting at Oregon Tech.


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