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KBRA Divide: Supporters work to reduce cost
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 5/22/11
After a Washington, D.C., trip to gauge where lawmakers stand on Klamath River Basin dam removal and water agreements, stakeholders say they are working to chip away at the $1.5 billion price tag to make the agreements more palatable to the U.S. Congress.
“Stakeholders are trying to be responsive to what we’ve heard about the budget,” said Greg Addington, director of the Klamath Water Users Association. Lawmakers questioned “is the budget justifiable, can it be reduced, what can we put into this thing to achieve the same result with less federal dollars?”
“(The agreements) set a precedent, and they’re hearing from opposition big-time,” Addington said. “It’s a big ask and a heavy lift and it’s not easy for them.”
The agreements — Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and K lamath 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.
The agreements will cost more than $1 billion; the potential cost of dam removal will come from Pacific Power customers, and much of the other mandates will be federally funded, requiring Congressional authorization.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the agreements in February 2010. Since then, Congress has not seen much legislation relating to them, though much of the holdup has been a dam removal feasibility study that will be completed next year.
Scott Seus, a Tulelake farmer and Klamath Water Users Association board member, said the response from lawmakers was encouraging.
“… They were eager to talk to us because KBRA is an organic solution to a problem,” he said. “They’re happy they don’t have to mandate from the top down for a solution. … They’re going along with it because it’s all from the ground up.”
That, Seus said, puts the onus on local irrigators to do “the best we can to make this an affordable thing, something that keeps us viable.”
Opponents of the agreements have been appealing to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., to stop authorization.
They’ve had symbolic success.
McClintock in March made a failed attempt to eliminate funding for the critical sedimentation study, and Walden voted with him.
“The problem with KBRA is not the tweaking, but that Congress doesn’t want it,” said Tom Mallams, leader of Klamath Off-Project Water Users, an opposition group.
The Klamath Water Users Association delegation said lawmakers were aware of their split constituency — some Klamath Basin growers ardently support the agreements, and some just as passionately oppose them.
“All of them are answering to constituents,” Seus said. “Some of the people that represent us understand us. My representative (Rep. Wally Herger, RCalif.) in particular doesn’t have a clue. The rest know how (KBRA) started and how it came to be.
“But they are sympathetic to those who are not willing to evolve with the deal, with the times.”
Groups opposing the agreements hope Congress refuses to provide funding.
“KBRA was a good idea when it started, but it went south,” Mallams said. “KBRA needs to go back to the drawing board. We need state adjudication done first, then it can go from there.”
Page Updated: Tuesday May 24, 2011 02:46 AM Pacific
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