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No action expected this year on KBRA

  Legislation needed to fulfill provisions of both agreements
 by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 8/7/10 
     A spokesman for a federal lawmaker said he doesn’t expect Congress to advance any legislation regarding the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement during the current legislative session.

   “There aren’t a lot of legislative days left,” said Andrew Whelan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

   T he ag reement was signed by the governors of Oregon and California, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and proponents in February, but federal legislation is necessary before it can be fully implemented.  

   Lawmakers at all levels have taken stances on the agreement, while some remain on the fence. Regardless, legislation pertaining to the KBRA is not likely to advance through Congress soon with midterm elections looming.

   Hundreds of millions

   Proponents have said they are focused on getting the KBRA implemented now that it is signed. The legislation is needed to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for habitat restoration, to establish sustainable irrigation power rates and help the Klamath Tribes acquire privately owned forestland.

   In a statement to the Herald and News, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said, “Many believe, as I do, that the KBRA will provide mechanisms to address future water challenges in the Basin.”

   U . S . R e p . T o m McClintock, R-Calif., however, said dam removal, as required by the KBRA, is “insane” and that the environmental left has worked to ensure its passage despite opposition in the Basin.  

   “They’re not going to stop with just the Klamath (River),” he said.

   While McClintock said he is aware of opposition to the restoration agreement, he would not be surprised if proponents had managed to keep other lawmakers unaware of such opposition.

   Whelan said Walden has not taken a position of opposition or support of the KBRA and would rather see those on both sides of the issue find a resolution. He added even if there is time following elections this fall to address the legislation, it would be irresponsible to handle the KBRA during the lame duck period of the session.        The office of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., initially declined Herald and News requests to comment on the KBRA for this story. When told that position would be reported, Tom Towslee, Wyden’s spokesman, provided the following comment.

   “It is encouraging that all of the parties involved for this process have gotten this far under very difficult circumstances. There is still work to be done, including scientific studies by the Department of the Interior. After that, an agreement will require Congress to draft and enact implementing legislation. That will be no easy feat.”

   Oregon state Sen. Bill G a r r a r d , R - K l a m at h Falls, said he has had discussions   about the issue with Walden and Wyden.

   “I think there are questions being raised at the federal level,” Garrard said.

   Merkley said he would continue to work with stakeholders and lawmakers to implement the restoration agreement that would allow those living in the region to thrive.  

   McClintock said he would encourage those opposed to the agreements to write their local officials, blog about their concerns, and call state and federal lawmakers.

   “I think people need to agitate in every public forum they can find,” he said.

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