Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Water issue debated at separate forums
Opponents suggest other optionsAndrea Rabé thinks additional water storage is just one of several alternatives that need to be considered before removing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
The irrigator from off the Klamath Reclamation Project on Tuesday presented a list of other possibilities, from drilling wells on the county’s western edge and tapping reservoirs to juniper mitigation to preserve water supplies, as alternatives to dam removal.“I’m sure there’s millions of other ideas out there,” she said during one of two public forums hosted by lawmakers Tuesday at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.
Rabé and dozens of others — many from off the Project — voiced their opposition to dam removal and the related Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement during the sessions, which drew between 250 to 300 people.The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement allocates water rights among Klamath River Basin interests, including irrigators, tribes, conservationists and fisheries. It also calls for dam removal to restore salmon runs on the river.
Gauging opinionState Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, and state Reps. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, and George Gilman, R-Medford said they organized the forums to gauge public opinion of the restoration agreement and dam removal.
The three have been critical of the agreement and dam removal in the past.Speakers at the forum had to sign up and names were drawn in random order. Each person had between three and five minutes. The lawmakers did not answer questions or comment except for brief remarks at the beginning.
People gave a variety of reasons for opposing dam removal and the water agreement. John Kite, an off-Project rancher on the Klamath River, said the agreement should never have proceeded until the Basin’s water adjudication was completed.Land, fish ladders
Nathan Jackson, an off-Project rancher and vice president of the Klamath County Cattlemen’s Association, said the amount of land required to be retired in the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, combined with land already taken out of production, would leave only 56 percent of the upper Basin’s irrigable land available, dealing a severe blow to the county’s cattle industry.Lester Hinton, a cattleman on Spencer Creek near the J.C. Boyle dam, said floods from years ago rendered the dam’s fish ladder ineffective and it should not be torn out.
“It should have been fixed 40 to 45 years ago,” he said.Athena Bagwell, a Dorris resident and member of the Shasta Nation — a tribe without federal recognition — said her tribe’s opposition to dam removal was ignored. She received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Several other speakers said the negotiations were unfair because not everyone was welcome at the table.Roger Nicholson, an off-Project irrigator and president of the Resource Conservancy, said his group was locked out of talks despite trying to work with other stakeholders, such as the Klamath Tribes.
Bill Nicholson, a rancher and Roger Nicholson’s brother, criticized the tactics of an off-Project group, Upper Klamath Water Users Association, of which rancher Becky Hyde is a member.Bill Nicholson said Hyde was being employed by environmental group Sustainable Northwest to promote the agreement as a means of dividing and conquering the off-Project.
Off-Project irrigator Beverly Mallams said she did not feel the Klamath Tribes had sacrificed anything in the agreement, while others had, and yet were getting nearly everything they wanted.The state lawmakers thanked everyone for their comments.
“From what I heard this afternoon, (it) sounds like we have a flawed process, and I’m not sure how to fix it,” Gilman said.Recordings of the meetings will be sent to elected officials, government agencies and the media.
Proponents arrange Q&A sessionKarl Scronce planned to attend public forums Tuesday on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
An irrigator on the Klamath Reclamation Project, Scronce started to prepare remarks for the event at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. But then he saw advertisements and mailings urging people to attend and protest the agreement and a related Klamath River dam removal agreement.He decided not to go.
“To me, it just adds bias right away,” Scronce said.While three area state lawmakers hosted the public forums Tuesday, Scronce and other Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement proponents attended a quickly arranged luncheon at The Creamery for themselves and invited guests.
At the luncheon , which was attended by about 50 people, including regional elected and agency officials, proponents gave updates on the water and dam removal agreements, fielded questions and dispelled rumors.Bud Ullman, attorney for the Klamath Tribes, said the agreement would not stop people from continuing in the water adjudication process and having their day in court.
CostToby Freeman, regional community manager for Pacific Power, said it’s unlikely it would take $4 billion to remove the four dams and that Congress likely wouldn’t be willing to pay that much.
The proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement allocates water rights among Klamath River Basin interests, including irrigators, tribes, conservationists and fisheries. It also calls for dam removal to restore salmon runs on the river.Among those attending the luncheon were irrigators from on and off the Project and members of the Klamath Tribes. Attendees also included Klamath County Commissioners Al Switzer and Cheryl Hukill; Klamath Falls city councilwoman Trish Seiler; Betty Riley, executive director of South Central Oregon Economic Development District; Chip Massie, executive director of Klamath County Chamber of Commerce; Oregon Institute of Technology professor Tom Chester; and Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance.
Campaign of supportSeveral of those attending expressed concern that proponents had no substantive campaign promoting the restoration and dam removal agreements, yet opponents have done quite a bit to spread their message.
“We have to do a better job, we really do, but we have to be done first,” said Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association.Merrill irrigator Tim Parks, Klamath tribal member and off-Project irrigator Melissa Hess and business owner Bob Gasser said they wondered what could and should be done to promote the document.
Lani Hickey of the Klamath County’s public works department asked how proponents would justify their invitation- only luncheon when there was a public meeting the same day.Document not done
Proponents said public comment will be an important part of the agreement, but the document isn’t finished yet and such discussions would be premature.The forums across town provided three to five minutes per speaker, not enough time to fully explain the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, and the nature of the opposition made attending difficult, they said.
“We just decided that wasn’t going to be a productive use of our time,” Addington said.But attendees told the luncheon organizers that something should be done to give proponents more of a voice and inform people.
“I know there’s a lot of people just sitting there waiting,” Hess said.
Page Updated: Thursday November 19, 2009 02:50 AM Pacific
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