Future of irrigation: Views differ about
water agreement’s impact on agriculture
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News October 16, 2009
Scronce and Hyde's new group represent less than 5% of off project and
are at the negotiation table. Hyde works for Sustainable NW which
works for the Klamath Tribes. Resource Conservancy represents the
of off project and are denied a seat at the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement table. Why?)
Karl Scronce, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project,
says that all off-Project irrigators would receive equal treatment
under a Klamath River dam removal agreement and the Klamath Basin
But Tom Mallams, another off-Project irrigator, said the two
agreements would doom irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Basin.
Other Klamath River Basin stakeholders agree dam removal and the
water settlement will impact irrigators, but they, like Mallams
and Scronce, don’t agree how.
Will all off-Project irrigators really receive equal treatment
under the dam removal agreement and KBRA?
Off-Project irrigator Tom Mallams said the power rate benefits in
the dam removal agreement unfairly impact off-Project irrigators.
The agreement requires those seeking affordable power to join the
Klamath Water and Power Agency, or KWAPA, something only
on-Project irrigators can do, according to written rule.
“As it’s written right now, they can’t treat us fairly,” Mallams
And there are still problems with rights to water provided in the
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, he added, because some
stakeholders are trying to override the state’s water adjudication
spokesman for the Karuk Tribe of California, said those who
worked on the agreements sought to provide affordable power to
irrigators who historically benefited from a low power rate under
a previous contract with PacifiCorp.
They’ve also tried to provide help for willing off-Project
irrigators to resolve water claims with the Klamath Tribes and
others and ensure access to the resource, Tucker said.
Steve Rothert of the environmental group American Rivers said the
benefits of the agreements are potentially available to anyone.
“Not everyone automatically gets the benefits, but if they sign up
and endorse (the agreements) they will receive them,” he said.
Off-Project irrigator Karl Scronce said his organization tried to
minimize issues regarding off-Project irrigator participation in
affordable power rates, but he said there likely would be
eligibility requirements. However, he said he wants as many people
to participate as possible.
“We’re just trying to give them something to participate in,” he
Could the agreements really doom irrigated agriculture in the
Mallams, in an article published in the Sept. 29 Herald and News
about the agreements, said: “It’s going to doom irrigated
agriculture in the Klamath Basin.”
Not everyone agrees.
“I don’t know how he could reach that conclusion when the KBRA is
providing reliability to on-Project and off-Project water users,”
The agreements would go far to resolve disputes over water claims,
as evidenced by the settlement between the Klamath Tribes and
on-Project irrigators, he said, and they also would make the
stakeholders responsible to each other, preserve the watershed and
help its communities to survive.
“Sure, part of the deal does require some water to be restored to
the rivers but only a fraction of what’s been diverted,” Rothert
said about what off-Project irrigators would provide in the
Tucker characterized Mallams’ statement and those similar to it as
fear mongering, adding that other irrigators have said the
agreements would help them survive. He pointed out that farmers
are traditionally ideologically opposed to dam removal because
they can contribute to irrigation, but the dams on the Klamath
River have not.
Off-Project irrigators also have not had the same experience as
those on the Project, who’ve had to contend with a water shutoff
in 2001 and the possibility of others ever since.
Mallams stood by his comments, but added that the agreement is
fixable, especially if stakeholders returned to the framework they
agreed to in 2007. Unfortunately, the other stakeholders have
refused to go back to the negotiation table, shooting down the
options he and others have provided, he said.
“The way it’s written, I feel we’re doomed,” he said.
Scronce said he doesn’t agree with Mallams’ vision, but he’s still
waiting to see viable alternatives to the agreements.
“I don’t think anyone denies there are good alternatives, I just
hear a lot of negative talk and stone throwing about these
agreements,” he said.
Second take: The water agreement
Editor's Note: When stakeholders released a Klamath dam removal
agreement for review, a number of people expressed various
opinions about it and its possible effects.
The Herald and News will take a weekly look at a variety of those
opinions, as well as other questions posed by readers, by
reviewing them with other stakeholders and observers.
This latest agreement was a year in the making and would take out
four hydro-power projects downstream of Klamath Falls. It is one
element of the larger Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which
deals with water rights, power supply, Tribal lands, fisheries and