Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is Unfair
by Carolyn Obenchain and Margaret Jacobs, guest writers for
Herald and News 9/27/09
Carolyn Obenchain and Margaret Jacobs are sisters who ranch
in the Bly area. They’ve been active in water matters and their
family has been ranching in the Upper Klamath Basin for four
generations. They are “off-Project” ranchers — their ranches are
located off the Klamath Reclamation Project.
Klamath Falls Herald and News Our family has ranched in the upper
Klamath Basin for four generations. Like our neighbors, not only
are we dependent upon the land and water for our very livelihood,
but we also understand better than many so-called
“environmentalists” the need to protect this watershed. So when we
first heard about a process to settle the water issues fairly, we
We respect and understand the legitimate, but competing calls on
the water for the fish, the Tribes and the Project irrigators.
Those needs are not more important or more solidly based in water
law than those of off-Project irrigators. We sure like the idea of
ending costly and seemingly endless litigation.
We were promised that all of the affected parties would have a
say, that each would have to give up something in return for some
water security and that the process would be fair. We were also
assured that no agreement would be made that wasn’t acceptable to
all major parties (as guaranteed in writing in the original
Klamath Settlement Framework of 1-20-2007).
Negotiations kept secret
However, we worried when we learned these negotiations would be
secret. In our experience, people who do things in secret usually
have something to hide.
Now it surely seems like this negotiation was not honest, or in
good faith, and that maybe that was the real reason for the
secrecy. It was certainly not fair to the off-Project irrigators.
It looks more like a setup to favor the Tribes and the Project
irrigators at our expense.
Our irrigation representative was excluded from the talks.
The off-Project power representative tried to provide some input
into the talks, but he was attacked personally and excluded from
the final agreement.
The rules were changed from requiring agreement of all major
parties to one where certain powerful interests could run
roughshod over our legitimate needs. (It is like the old joke
about a cougar, a coyote and a lamb voting on what to have for
Big incentives for some
Huge and costly incentives were offered: A 90,000-acre tree farm
for the Tribes, dam removal and instream flow for the fish, water
security plus $100 million for the Project irrigators, rate
increased and indemnity from environmental costs for dam removal
for Pacific Power, and the Klamath County government to receive
Oregon Lottery funds to replace the tax dollars they would lose
when the off-Project irrigators go out of business.
As a result, while every other party received something they
wanted from the agreement, we did not get any assurance whatsoever
for our water supply, while being forced to give up large amounts
of our legally guaranteed water. Even this was slanted unfairly
because the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement conveniently
ignores all of the water that the off-Project irrigators have
already given up, which equated to 100,000 acres already being
The agreement is not only unfair to the off-Project irrigators, it
sure looks like it was always designed to work that way so as to
trade our water for the agendas of others. That is why we and most
all of off-Project irrigators — along with over 1,800 Klamath
County residents in a recent scientific poll — strongly oppose the