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Siskiyou County requests more time for comments on draft statement

by TIM HEARDEN Capital Press 10/20/11

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- Divisions here over the proposed removal of four dams from the Klamath River were still evident at a hearing Oct. 18, although perhaps not as bitter as a year ago.

More than 200 people showed up for the first of six public hearings on the project, and a majority -- but not all -- of the speakers voiced their opposition.

"The draft environmental statement seems to be a job creator for the radical environmental movement and will be a disaster for residents in the basin," James Ottoman of Malin, Ore., told state and federal officials during the hearing at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.

Thomas Guarino, county counsel for Siskiyou County in Northern California, said removing the dams would cause a net job loss for his county, where three of the dams sit. He voiced the county's request that the written comment period be extended beyond 60 days.

"There's no opportunity for meaningful review" of the hundreds of pages of documents, he said to the moderators. As it is, the comment period runs until Nov. 21.

Jason Chapman, a third-generation rancher in the Klamath Basin, said the dam removals and related fisheries-restoration efforts are the best hope for a reliable water supply for farmers.

"2001 was almost it for us," Chapman said, referring to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's cutoff of water to irrigators to help endangered fish. "I would like to see my ranch go through my life as well, and with this project I believe it gives me a consistent supply of water."

Don Gentry, vice chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said the project is "good for the Klamath Tribes and good for the people of the Klamath Basin, from the mountains to the headwaters and beyond."

Certainly tensions still run high in the basin, where discord over the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement has caused long-time friends to stop speaking to one another and neighbors to accuse progressive farmers of selling out.

However, the Oct. 18 meeting was mostly free of rancor, save for one woman's booing when U.S. Geological Survey program manager Dennis Lynch asserted the project would create jobs.

"It'll wreck ours!" the woman shouted.

Before the meeting, small groups of demonstrators on both sides of the issue stood within a few feet of each other and calmly made their cases with signs, balloons, T-shirts and leaflets.

Becky Hyde, a cattle rancher near Beatty, Ore., said the dissension among basin farmers "is tough."

"When you're from rural areas, your neighbors matter," Hyde said.

"We're just here trying to create a future for agriculture and an end to decades of litigation."


Public hearings

Here is a schedule for remaining public hearings on the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement EIS and EIR. All the meetings begin with a 4:30 p.m. question-and-answer session, followed by public comment at 6 p.m.:

Oct. 19: Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S. Fourth St., Chiloquin, Ore.

Oct. 20: Yreka Community Theatre, 812 N. Oregon St., Yreka, Calif.

Oct. 25: Karuk Tribe Community Room, 39051 Highway 96, Orleans, Calif.

Oct. 26: Arcata Community Center, 321 Community Park Way, Arcata, Calif.

Oct. 27: Yurok Tribal Administration Office, 160 Klamath Blvd., Klamath, Calif.



Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement studies and EIS/EIR: http://klamathrestoration.gov

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