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Rumors, alternatives addressed during supervisors' discussion of KBRA

By Jamie Gentner, Siskiyou Daily News February 3, 2010 
Yreka, Calif. - The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors took the opportunity to squash some rumors and hear more pubic comment regarding the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) at its meeting Tuesday.

County Counsel Thomas Guarino began the conversation by telling the public that the board is waiting to hear what the effective date of the KBRA will be. Once the effective date is given, there will be a 60-day review period, during which public meetings will be held for input.

At that time, the board will also be able to review the final document and see which sections they would like to formulate a response to and where their suggestions have been incorporated.

Siskiyou County has made some significant contributions, Guarino said.

“It’s important to know the board got engaged, not as a pre-commitment, but just to be engaged in the process. We feel it’s important to know what’s going on,” he said. “This document has significant importance to the county – more so than many of the other areas. We engaged with the intent of being a legitimate voice.”

It is the board’s persistence that has ensured that science  was involved, that the economic and environmental impacts were considered, that the document complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and more, Guarino said.

“We have fought tooth and nail,” he said. “Whether they go forward with or without the county, this whole process has fundamentally been changed by our participation.”

The county has done so with limited resources, which Guarino said is a big reason why they have not pursued any kind of lawsuit. Guarino guessed staff and board members have invested over 5,000 hours and $200,000 over the past three years, and taking more drastic measures would require resources the county doesn’t have.

“This was a process leading to an eventual decision, and we participated to make sure it was done fairly ... that all the issues were considered,” Board Chair Marcia Armstrong said. “We participated in good faith to make sure the people of this county are protected.”

But no matter the extent of involvement, the board members and Guarino stressed that the board has not made any commitment regarding the document.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff addressed a rumor he had heard that the county will get $20 million if the KBRA goes into effect.

Guarino said a previous draft of the agreement had stipulated that if the county didn’t sign the agreement that it wouldn’t get a share of economic development funds offered by the legislature – totaling around $20 million. But that provision has been taken out and is no longer in the agreement.

“The county can not be bought,” Guarino said. “We are free to look at the agreement with no coercion.”

After clearing up those issues, the board opened the meeting for public comment.

Anthony Intiso was first to the microphone. He first spoke on behalf of Bob Rice, his fellow member of the Klamath River Advisory Council, who reported that about 5,000 Siskiyou County residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the KBRA and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA).

Then, referencing material he handed out, Intiso relayed the findings of a field trip he took with members of the Shasta Nation, local farmers and a licensed survey engineer to investigate the feasibility of a fish bypass from below Iron Gate Dam to the upper reaches of the Klamath River and basin.

The study suggested adding at least two refugia to the Klamath River in order to allow salmon over the ridge. Three options were suggested, and the report concluded:

“No matter which plan or combination of these plans is used, they are the most natural passage in incorporating retaining the dams. The preliminary cost estimate for the by-pass is less than $10 million. Far less than any proposal and with less impact on the environment dam removal will cause. Additional(ly), the Shasta Nations Burial grounds will not be destroyed, as dam removal will do.”

Armstrong commended the work the group had done and said it “can open more doors.”
Later in the meeting, she suggested the board request Fish and Game and  U.S. Fish and Wildlife join in meetings and give a more in-depth analysis on the possibility of a fish bypass.

Frank Tallerico warned board members that he had heard the proponents of the KBRA were going to the legislature and petitioning to be exempt from NEPA requirements. He called the move “a glaring slap in the face.”

He also pointed out that the latest version of the document proposes the formation of charters, which would essentially negate local governments’ say.

Also referring to the formation of charters, Betty Hall suggested that, “by entering into this agreement, Siskiyou County ... knowingly becomes part of a dictatorship.” She said the agreement would destroy citizens’ rights and violate their trust.

“Just say no,” she concluded.

Leo Bergeron suggested the board effect eminent domain on the Klamath River so the dam could not be removed by other parties. He cited local ordinances, the Klamath Compact and the California Water Code in saying the board has the authority to do so.

“If we don’t and the KBRA is implemented, these (documents) are gone – the KBRA will be the governing document,” he said. “We feel the time has passed – we need to ... let them know we mean business, that we are major players and that they will need our signature.”

But Guarino pointed out that there are restrictions on acquiring property that is already for a public use. Property can only be effected for eminent domain if it is for a “more necessary use.” Simply effecting eminent domain to keep the dams in would be the same use. He also mentioned the tremendous amount of funding and resources needed for such a process.

“The likelihood of success is very slim,” he said.

Bergeron also requested the board schedule a workshop where everyone’s alternatives could be presented in full – where everything could be put on the table, questions could be asked and “we can see if we have a viable alternative to this nightmare,” he said.

On behalf of the Siskiyou County Republican Central Committee, Ken Howser presented a petition with over 500 signatures gathered at last year’s Siskiyou Golden Fair of residents who were not in agreement with the KBRA and removal of dams in general. Signing the non-partisan petition indicated opposition to “demolishing or breaching of the dams.”

He and another commenter also mention Sen. Sam Aanestad’s town hall meeting regarding the dams. They both said Aanestad did not seem to relay the same intent the board indicated.

Kobseff mentioned a phone conversation he had with Aanestad, where he had told the senator that money was not what the county was after. But the residents said Aanestad made it sound like the county was expecting reimbursement.

“Aanestad threw the supervisors under the bus several times,” Howser said. “He did the supervisors no service. He misrepresented the intent.”

The supervisors agreed that a conversation should be had with Aanestad to clarify their stance and see where he stands.

In the end, the supervisors are committed to “take care of the people of Siskiyou County in all areas,” District 4 Supervisor Grace Bennett said.

Kobseff warned residents to be wary of rumors.

“There’s a strategy out there to make Siskiyou County look like we are not legitimate,” he said, “and I believe we are.”

And District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela stressed that their fight for legitimacy and a resolution is ongoing.

“There were a lot of things presented that we’ve already discussed, and we’ll continue to discuss them,” he said. “That is our investment – that we will continue to fight.”
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