Our south county route engaged several unique and ingenious Basin farmers who have created success stories. Meeting the individuals who make the difference was the best part of the day.
During our travels, water usage, storage and shortages were a constant theme. Additionally, the pros, cons and entanglements of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement were always close at hand.
Klamath residents are continually assured that the KBRA/KHSA settlements will restore fish habitat, ensure tribal interests, provide water supply certainty, add prosperity to agriculture and create jobs in supporting industries. The agreements imply all of this while striving "to maintain or enhance economic stability of adjacent landowners, and affected counties."
In other words, there will be money and prosperity for all. These agreements should be called the "Obamacare" solution to Klamath County's economic and agricultural woes.
Sure it sounds wonderful, but can all of this be true?
These agreements represent federal, state, tribal, fishermen's groups, conservation organizations, and PacifiCorp. Additionally, these agreements specifically state that they are dependent upon the sole determination of the "Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce and other Federal agencies, as appropriate."
So, with all of these engaged outside representatives no one can honestly say, "The settlement agreement gives local communities much greater control."
On Sept. 11, 2010, another truth hit the community. A news article describes, "More Congressional funding will be required than previously thought." Does this surprise anyone?
If the government funds (through taxpayers) $1.5 billion for this project, then the Basin's economic future will be tied to politics. This funding will undeniably lead to more government control, regulation and intervention.
Is it all bad? No.
But, if the two most important issues are fish habitat and agricultural water (along with the power required to pump and move this precious resource), then how was funding for water storage missed?
Section 18.3 adds well-meaning jargon, but lacks specifics. It reads, "Reclamation shall work diligently to complete appropriate studies for off-stream storage projects."
Yet, past studies already identify Long Lake as a comparatively inexpensive solution. Estimates are that Long Lake could be engineered to manage the same acre-foot water capacity as Upper Klamath Lake, over less area and with less evaporative loss. This is a glaring omission from the KBRA.
Apparently, identifying off-stream storage needs would highlight the realization that electrical power will be needed and existing hydroelectric dams should not be removed.
Nevertheless, participants, after "years of extensive negotiations" earmarked enormous largess - $92.5 million to Klamath Water and Power Agency (an entity controlled by Klamath Project irrigators) and over $50 million in irrigation district power subsidies. Additionally, there is $21 million for the acquisition of the Mazama Forest Project for the Klamath Tribes plus the $200 million in Oregon ratepayer surcharges for PacifiCorp's dam removal effort.
After all this, there still is no funding for water storage.
Voting on the KBRA
Nov. 2 will finally provide Klamath County voters with an opportunity to vote on the restoration agreement. This is an important opportunity for the voters to send a message to Congress and our new governor - the KBRA and dam removal plan is exorbitant and costly.
Our Basin should focus on transferring ownership of the Klamath Project from Bureau of Reclamation control to local control, including water right certificates. Our county, our irrigation districts and our state need to stand up to the legislators who have never made Klamath their home.
Klamath County's future depends upon sustainable independence and true economic growth, not on the political methods that will arbitrarily misallocate our scarce natural resources. It's time for voters to pursue autonomy and independence in order to achieve the proper allocation of our natural resources.
Water rationing and funding giveaways via the "Obamacare" solution called the KBRA is not the answer.
A few Herald and News discussion posts:
Excellent letter! It sure does seem evident that the more people learn about this, as you call it, Obamacare solution, the more they understand how it is nothing more than empty promises except to the "select" few. The off stream storage being left out of these "great" documents, blows my mind. You need to note also, that if there is ever any offstream storage developed, it has to be for FISH ONLY, not for agriculture!!! Does this make any sense to anyone at all?? I guess it does if you are an environmentalist that wants ALL irrigated agriculture to dissapear off the face of the map! The other reason for this to make perfectly good sense would be if you are on someone's payroll. As is the usual case, FOLLOW THE MONEY!!