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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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“Steamroller KBRA”
followed by


Settlement instead of Agreement
by William Kennedy, Klamath Falls, Oregon
Pioneer Press


Are we asking the correct question? The question is not whether a person is for or against dam removal. The question is, do you endorse positioning a private business in a corner by deceit, coercion and regulatory threats in order to limit their choice on how they generate hydropower? Do you approve of a process that manipulates perception as truth and results in giving someone’s property away without their engagement? Do you support a process of limited negotiations that strays far away from anything that looks like democracy and excludes true stakeholders in order to reach a predetermined outcome?
The voters in Klamath County have chosen as evidenced by the May primary results. There is no doubt now that our votes, our democratic process, have risen above the designs and rhetoric of the press and others. The resounding answer is NO! We do not approve of the misguided direction our governments seem to be taking regarding the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). To put it simply, NO! , We do not approve of dam removal.
For the local print media to advise the remaining Klamath County Commissioners to stay the course and push forward with the KBRA is an insult. To continue to praise the process as time well spent by a few in the interest of us all is blind to the reality of a sham. I see a cartoon of our elected officials from Klamath Falls to Washington DC running the “Steamroller, KBRA”, over the economic engine of our community. Bad advice. The representatives that truly “get it” are State Representative Garrard. State Senator Whitsett, Congressman Tom McClintock. Once again the voters spell it out. The May primary was not the result of a poor political campaign. It was our political process working to send a clear message.


Settlement instead of Agreement

Being critical of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) is easy. Pointing out an alternative is a good idea. For the past five years there has been an advocacy for the Klamath River Adjudication, making it the foundation of a true settlement instead of the dam removal foundation found in the KBRA agreement.
The adjudication is the legal foundation for a settlement as well as the only legal mechanism to allocate the waters of the state of Oregon. Two Supreme Court rulings uphold its implementation by the State of Oregon. In 1997 when the adjudication claim period was closed, the director of the Water Resource Department initiated a well-intended Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process. This was to allow for negotiated settlement and it was responsibly designed with firewalls between the claimants in the adjudication, the Oregon Water Resource Department and the Oregon Department of Justice. This ADR was derailed and abandoned. Instead we have been manipulated into a poorly designed but craftily implemented direction by parties OUTSIDE the adjudication process.
So here is a thumbnail sketch of a Settlement to replace the KBRA agreement. Adjudicate the allocation of water by the Oregon Adjudication process. Downsize the federal presence in the Klamath Basin. Transfer ownership of the Klamath Project to the irrigation community. Transfer ownership of the refuge system and other federal lands to the respective states, counties  and tribes. Let the FERC process deal with power generation on the Klamath River. Offer alternatives for those who want out of the irrigated agricultural business and transfer water rights under current law to establish some in stream rights that are based on historically natural, sustainable flows.
This is not an easy direction. It involves risks in the adjudication. It changes the way we deal with the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is forthright in that it relies on a valid legal process, it involves all true stakeholders. The advocacy from outside political directives interested in dismantling our local economies and communities do not have a place at this table. Like I said, it is forthright.
Is this the only alternative to be ignored? I do not think so. Right now, in the interest of the country we love and the government we fear, is the time for an alternative to the KBRA. It is time for a true Settlement based on the legally adjudicated water rights of the Klamath River.
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