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After drought, irrigators still split on KBRA 

Some say the water agreement would have helped this year; others say it wouldn’t be enough

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 11/7/10

     Rob Unruh said his past and current experiences with having his irrigation water shut off during the growing sea son have solidified his support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
   He said the document, which seeks to resolve conflicts over water in the Basin, isn’t perfect but it provides the best guarantee to have water to irrigate with in the future on the Klamath Reclamation Project.
   “Politically, I’m very conservative but where else am I going to get this much assurance on my water supply?” the Malin-area farmer asked.
   Kenny Schell, a board member of the Pine Grove Irrigation District who has land in two other irrigation districts sees too many problems with the restoration agreement.
   Despite the negotiations and people representing irrigators at the table, Schell said, the document doesn’t guarantee Project irrigators anything and includes other provisions he can’t agree to, such as the removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric dams and providing land to the Klamath Tribes.
   “I’m not saying everyone shouldn’t get together but there are just too many things in the KBRA I’m not comfortable with,” he said.
   Irrigators, fishermen, tribes, environmentalists and government officials from all levels spent years crafting the restoration agreement. Along with calling for removal of dams owned by PacifiCorp and using public funds to purchase the Mazama Tree Farm for the   Tribes, it seeks water and power assurances for irrigators and environmental restoration.
   Total cost of implementation is expected to be around $1.5 billion, with dam removal being paid for by Pacifi-Corp ratepayers and other aspects paid for with taxpayer dollars.
   Schell and Unruh indicated that the Endangered Species Act is a primary source of problems for irrigators, as it requires a certain amount of water for endangered salmon and suckers.
   Unruh said the KBRA doesn’t provide irrigators with complete protection from the ESA but makes it easier for irrigators to work with federal authorities allocating water for environmental and agricultural purposes.
   “It’s as close to a non-jeopardy decision on our water as you can get,” he said.  
   Schell said the ESA is detrimental to the country as a whole and environmentalists have used it to push their agenda, including introduction of salmon into the upper reaches of the Klamath River. He added the concept of science being made flexible from the act of signing a document isn’t logical.
   “Fish, water levels and all that don’t know if we signed onto the KBRA or not,” he said.
   Schell said the state’s water adjudication should go through, as it would provide resolution to the conflicts over water in the region. Unruh said adjudication could provide some resolution but would take a long time and could become wrapped in lawsuits, a strategy that has yielded little for Project irrigators in the past.
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