Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Advocacy groups on both sides moving forward
Groups work on legal challenges and congressional support
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 5/22/11
Last growing season, bright yellow signs stating KBRA = JOBS and maroon signs with KBRA behind a prohibition symbol were competing for attention on fence posts and in yards.
Lake levels were low, and tension surrounding the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was high.
Now that water is plentiful, supporters and opponents of the agreement are quiet. But, they say, while they may have put aside the megaphones, they ’re still working on their causes.
The KBRA and related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement aim to establish sustainable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, remove four PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel of private timberland, and fund habitat restoration.
“We’re farmers and ranchers and local businessmen. The summer season is when we get busy, so we do the best we can,” said Steve Kandra, a farmer and organizer of pro-KBRA groups PROSPER and KBRA = JOBS.
This past fall and winter, PROSPER hosted a series of talks called Klamath Conversations aimed at “distributing information about natural resources, the restoration agreement, the tribal community, and irrigation activities,” Kandra said.
The group will have booths at Third Thursday events in downtown Klamath Falls and at local and regional fairs this summer.
“It’s harder to attract people in the summer,” Kandra said. “People are on the road, people are busy, so we’ll reshape how we do the program. We’ll go to where people are gathering up rather than try to attract people.”
The groups also are watching the Klamath Water Users Association progress on pushing necessary KBRA legislation through Congress.
“As the settlement agreements … move through the political process, there will be a tremendous amount of … rhetoric on the pros and cons of what’s going on,” Kandra said. “We’ll be involved in that.”
Citizens Protecting Rural Oregon, an anti-KBRA group, is exclusively focused on validation, a legal process required by the KBRA to affirm that irrigation boards have the authority to sign the irrigators they represent onto the agreement.
“Validation may be the lynchpin of the whole thing,” said Al King, spokesman for the group and a Malin rancher. “Their biggest weakness … is that they went about this without their members’ support.
“The agreement says all or nothing. … If (validation) falls apart, the whole thing falls apart.”
Klamath Irrigation District, the Malin Irrigation District and Shasta View Irrigation District last June filed for validation in Klamath County Circuit Court.
In February, King’s group, in cooperation with the irrigator group Klamath Off-Project Water Users and the advocacy group Water for Life, filed appeals claiming water is the property of individual irrigators. They contend the KBRA takes away that property, so the irrigation boards don’t have the authority to sign onto an agreement that violates property rights.
After a series of amendments and motions, the cases are scheduled to be in court in mid-June. A judge will determine whether irrigation boards went through the correct process — held public meetings, took comment, etc. — to sign onto the agreement.
Klamath Off-Project Water Users is “focused in a lot of different directions,” said Tom Mallams, leader of the group.
The group filed a validation appeal against Tulelake Irrigation District in Siskiyou County. It also is working with U.S. lawmakers in Oregon and California to garner opposition to Congressional authorization, Mallams said.
“Funding and legislation are not holding any water at the federal level,” Mallams said. “It had some momentum built up early on, but gosh, (congressmen) have been lied to. They told them there’s no opposition … and then they got proof there’s a lot of opposition.”
Page Updated: Tuesday May 24, 2011 02:46 AM Pacific
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