Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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400 attend hearing
Residents speak out on water agreement
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/29/10
Young and old. Ranchers and city dwellers. Irrigators from on and off the Klamath Reclamation Project. Those with generations of descendents in the Klamath Basin and those who are the first of their family to live in the region.
About 400 people filled an exhibit hall at the Klamath County Fairgrounds Wednesday night to share their opinions on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement with the Klamath County Commissioners.
The meeting went until about 10 p.m., with nearly 100 people speaking or providing written comments.
Klamath County Commissioner Cheryl Hukill said the board kept careful track of comments and noted that it was a nearly 50/50 split between opponents and proponents.
“It was a very good forum,” she said.
Proponents described the agreement as imperfect but still the best solution to the Basin’s issues, allowing agriculture to continue with a stable water supply and affordable power, and restoring the region’s ecosystem.
“It’s continued in a way that makes me very proud of what’s gone on over here,” said Klamath Falls resident John Ward.
But opponents said the agreement would destroy the Basin. It provides no solid assurances regarding water or power for agriculture, they said, and was crafted without proper representation of all those affected, especially those off the Project.
“As a resident of this county, I’m as much a stakeholder as anybody in this damn room,” said resident Michael Lucht.
A final review version of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was released in early January. Stakeholders who spent years crafting the document have until Feb. 9 to determine whether to support the agreement.
The Klamath Tribes, Klamath Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District and Humboldt Cou nty in Ca lifor n ia have voted to support the document and a related dam removal agreement involving four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Dam removal would re-establish salmon runs on the river and restore fisheries, supporters say.
Dam removal was just one reason opponents criticized the agreement.
They said it was unlikely salmon would ever make it to the Upper Klamath Basin, even with dam removal. They also said it was unreasonable to remove a green source of power when energy is such a valuable commodity.
“All I can see is lose, lose, anywhere you go,” said a resident of Lakeshore Drive along Upper Klamath Lake.
Several opponents told commissioners the agreement would not guarantee them water or affordable power.
“Never has the ranch been threatened more than it has today,” said Phil Nicholson, a fourth generation rancher from Fort Klamath.
Opponents also said they weren’t represented during closed-door negotiations and called other stakeholders, including the Klamath Tribes, the only clear winners.
A way forward
Proponents, though, said the agreement is the only way for the Basin to move forward.
“Let’s all work together with the idea that we will make it better for all,” said Gerda Hyde, a fourth-generation rancher on Yamsi Mountain.
One rancher said that to continue with the status quo of state water adjudication and other litigation would put an expensive burden on the agricultural community. Rancher Garrett Duncan said he and his wife want to establish their family land on the Sprague River and believe the restoration agreement would allow that to happen.
Several Klamath Tribal members also spoke in favor of the agreement, pointing out that restoring the Basin’s ecology could allow future generations of the Tribes to fish for suckers as their ancestors did.
Overall, proponents said the restoration agreement, though it wouldn’t provide everything to every stakeholder, does provide the best opportunity to reconcile the region.
“The KBRA allows us to continue our way of life,” said Melissa Hess, a Sprague River rancher and Klamath tribal member. “Change is coming, with or without the KBRA.”
Page Updated: Friday January 29, 2010 08:28 PM Pacific
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