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Groups divided over benefits of agreements


by Elon Glucklich, Herald and News 3/6/11


     Local groups agree U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock’s attempt to remove funding from the Klamath Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study could undermine the entire Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.


   They disagree on whether that’s a good thing.


   Some hail it as one more cut of thousands it will take to be rid of the controversial agreement known as the KBRA.


   Other groups are frustrated by the potential holdup, saying the study is an unbiased effort to answer questions everybody has — both opponents and proponents of the KBRA.  


   McClintock, R-Calif., attempted to block federal funding for the sedimentation study in an amendment to House Bill 1, which passed the House late last month and is expected to be voted on by the Senate in late March.


   The study is the feasibility portion of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, a dam removal agreement signed a year ago in conjunction with the KBRA. The study would inform a Department of Interior determination about whether the dams should be removed.


   Of the $18 million appropriated for the study, $15 million has been spent, said Greg Addington, director of the Klamath Water Users Association. Only the last $3 million could potentially be blocked.


   “It’s frustrating to get this far down the line and potentially the public and Congress won’t see the answers to questions they’ve been asking,” Addington said.


   Al King, a former judge and now a spokesman for Citizens Protecting Rural Oregon, said it’s part of the Republican strategy to stop the KBRA. Citizens Protecting Rural Oregon is opposed to the KBRA.


   “You can take away certain funding and have more of an impact than if you go after the whole thing,” King said.  


   “If you stop dam removal, that would, in effect, stop the KBRA,” King said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation would not comment until the spending bill is finalized, which is expected to happen later this month, said Matt Baun, public affairs specialist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Yreka. The bill is currently on the Senate calendar.


   Groups impacted by the KBRA and KHSA say:


   Larry Dunsmoor, senior aquatics biologist with the Klamath Tribes  


   If the amendment passes, “it would have the intended effect of interrupting the schedule of agreements,” Dunsmoor said. “If (McClintock is) successful then the parties would have to adapt to that different reality. It’d be a setback.


   “Obviously I have strong feelings about that being a very bad thing to happen for all groups in the Basin. It’s appalling to me that a representative from California whose district isn’t even involved is telling the rest of us there can’t be an agreement.”


   McClintock’s district includes Modoc County, but not Siskiyou County where three of the four the dams are located.


   Bud Ullman, water attorney for The Klamath Tribes


   “It would be bad if the (study) were forced to stop because everyone in the Basin wants to know the pros and cons of taking the dams out, and that’s what the study is aimed at doing.”


   Al King, spokesman for Citizens Protecting Rural Oregon  


   King didn’t know details of the specific amendments, but supported the effort to gradually stop the KBRA. “I’m very much opposed to the KBRA. I could go on and on about all the parts that would be destructive to all of us,” he said. “It sounds like (McClintock is) using the same tactic (we’re) using, challenging pieces of the KBRA. “We can’t stop the KBRA in one fell swoop; it’s too big, too massive. What you do is a thousand cuts.”


   Greg Addington, director of the Klamath Water Users Association


   “There are a lot of ‘ifs’ there; a lot of things have to happen,” he said. “(The amendment) passed by five votes of 435 members. That’s quite a few Republicans in opposition. That in itself is encouraging.


   “If it happens to go through, it will delay things at best. … The secretarial determination that says taking dams out is good or bad is the lynchpin in a lot of things with KHSA and KBRA. … It would change a lot of things, make things more difficult — which is what the opposition is trying to do.”


   Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe in California


   Tucker expects the final bill will look “radically different” than it does now. “We hope (the amendments are) not going to survive,” he said.


   “The study is trying to find answers to questions about is dam removal safe, is it affordable, is it good for the public,” he said. “Unless you’re afraid of those answers, I’m not sure why you would cut the funding.”


   And if McClintock succeeds, Tucker said, he “puts us right back where we were before in the farming and fishing communities … with the federal government in the driver’s seat as opposed to local leaders.”


Side Bars


Funds not specifically for dam removal feasibility study   


   Interior Department officials said the $1.9 million that Rep. Tom McClintock’s amendment would eliminate from the department’s budget does not have a specific earmark.


   U.S Bureau of Reclamation commissioner Michael Connor did not take a position on McClintock’s amendments and said the cut shouldn’t impact the study.


   “(The Klamath dam removal and sedimentation studies) are being completed with funds previously appropriated,” he said in a statement to the Herald and News.


   But those appropriated funds may be in jeopardy if McClintock’s amendment 296 is signed into law. That amendment would prohibit any further federal funding of the department’s dam removal study.


   The results of the study are to be used by the Secretary of the Interior in 2012 to make a decision as to whether removing PacifiCorp’s four Klamath River dams is in the public interest and advances restoration of Klamath River fisheries.

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