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Whitsett, Garrard don’t deserve attacks over water


The two legislators worked ‘night and day’ to get some protection for irrigators from higher power rates

September 13, 2009 Herald and News, by Edward Bartell, Guest Writer. Bartell currently lives near Winnemucca, Nev. He formerly was president of Klamath Off-Project Water Users, and was active in Klamath Basin issues.
I am troubled by the attacks on State Sen. Doug Whitsett, by Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association executive director,  and Steve Kandra, a board member. It is monumentally ungrateful of them to smear the senator after he and Rep. Bill Garrard worked day and night to secure the roughly $20 million in rate shock protection for Klamath Basin irrigators. This legislation was a huge benefit to Klamath irrigators. We owe the legislators some gratitude.

I personally worked on the rate shock legislation. In fact, Klamath Off-Project Water Users developed the concept, and jointly funded the successful negotiation efforts along with Water for Life. In the early stages the Klamath Water Users Association leadership told me how foolish I was in pursuing this legislation, insisting it would not be successful.

The water users association was dead wrong about rate shock legislation and it is dead wrong about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Won’t protect water users

The organization implies the agreement alleviates the Klamath water wars, but unfortunately it does not do this. In fact it says the opposite: the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service retain authority to shut down the Project just like they did in 2001. Section 21.5 of the restoration agreement makes this abundantly clear.

Lawyers will have a field day when salmon die in the naturally eutrophic waters of Upper Klamath Lake, especially since the agreement assures potential litigants that  it will lead to a “robust harvestable surplus of anadromous and other fisheries throughout the Klamath Basin” (KBRA 1.4).

Environmental groups and Tribes who are party to the agreement can still sue to shut down the Klamath Project when they “believe” endangered fish “may” be jeopardized (KBRA 20.3.1.B.iv.5). The caveat is that they must try to shut down other users in the Basin before trying to shut down the Project (KBRA 20.3.1.B.iv.1-4). In short the supposed protection Klamath Water Users Association is getting is coming on the backs of other water users.

Given the complete lack of meaningful protections, why are some so adamant in support the restoration agreement? Could it have something to do with money? Some politically astute individuals inside and outside the Klamath Project have been raking in millions of dollars in various water-marketing deals. The agreement  proposes roughly $200 million in various schemes that will take land out of production.

Unfortunately for settlement proponents, Whitsett chose to ignore the spin, read the agreement and then point out major deficiencies. Rather than correct those deficiencies, to make the settlement benefit all Klamath County residents, proponents launch a smear campaign. Proponents constantly argue that opponents have no other option. That is simply untrue. There would be a broad agreement if parties, including the water users association, merely honored the settlement framework supported by all parties in January 2007 that was the precursor to restoration agreement.

When I was president of Klamath Off-Project Water Users, we participated in settlement and contributed to developing this written settlement, which I actively supported. This settlement guaranteed Upper Basin water supplies and provided meaningful power benefits. Unfortunately, other parties defaulted on the deal. Guaranteed water supplies turned into targeting Upper Basin water. Guaranteed power rates turned into requiring off-project users to allow government oversight of their property, and no guarantees of any power rate at all.

When I insisted that settlement parties honor their agreement with off-Project water users, proponents enlisted a single off-Project water user, who had been attending negotiation meetings as part of a group that was a consultant to the Tribes to attack the Klamath Off-Project Water Users and myself.

Off-Project leadership a target

Now it appears the smear campaign has moved up to full speed against the current off-Project leadership with the formation of a dissident off-Project group. I find it hard to believe that it is sheer coincidence that  Kandra’s cousin and fellow Klamath Water Users Association board member Karl Scronce, who I understand sold his off-Project farm, was one of the founders of this dissident group. Could it be that when proponents preach the unity of a grand settlement in front of the press, they are at the same time pursuing a campaign of divisiveness behind the scene?

The only way to fix the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is to block it until it is fixed. Divisive actions greatly weaken the off-Project irrigators’ ability to speak with a unified voice and reinsert the above protections that proponents reneged on.

When groups support settlement no matter how bad the language gets, it will continue to get worse. Everybody should ignore the spin machine and make the same effort to understand settlement as Whitsett has, and insist that major changes are made which will make settlement benefit rather than injure Klamath County residents.

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              Page Updated: Monday September 14, 2009 03:29 AM  Pacific

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