Governors to meet for water summit
Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet with stakeholders this year to discuss a plethora of water-related issues in the Klamath Basin and along the Klamath River.
The summit will address such issues such as irrigation and endangered fish species, and will include irrigators, fishermen, American Indian tribes, environmental organizations and other interested groups, said Charlie Burr, spokesman for Kulongoski.
An exact date and location have not been determined, but Kulongoski’s office has indicated a strong desire to hold the summit in Klamath Falls, a fact that pleases county officials.
“It makes no sense to hold the meeting in a town that is not impacted by the watershed,” said John Elliott, Klamath County commissioner.
The Basin and Klamath River have been focal points of several controversial issues.
This year, federal fisheries managers cut the commercial salmon catch by 90 percent off Oregon and California because of low Klamath returns. Federal aid has been sought.
PacifiCorp is attempting to relicense four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that some say harm water quality and resident fish species.
Kulongoski stated earlier this year that he wanted to hold the summit, and he worked with Schwarzenegger’s office and other government officials to bring it about, Burr said.
The need to address the region’s water and other interrelated issues is paramount, he said.
“Both governors’ schedules are at maximum capacity but both recognize the need to get it done this year,” Burr said.
John Snyder, spokesman for Rep. Greg Walden, said he hadn’t spoken to Walden about the announcement yet. Snyder said he would probably take the announcement as extremely good news.
“This is exactly what he wanted,” he said.
The two governors hope to meet in December. Prior to the summit, both staff from both governors’ offices will work with interested individuals and organizations to develop a list of issues to be discussed to make the event as productive as possible, Burr said.
Congressional representatives from both sides of the state line will be invited along with organizations directly tied to the region’s water issues.
While not committed, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez support the summit and may attend, Burr said.
Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said he was glad to hear the summit was going to be a reality.
Newspapers in the state of California have taken a great interest in the river and have blamed the upper basin for many of its problems, he said, adding, it is “extremely important” to hold the summit in Klamath Falls to resolve those accusations and because of the river’s influence on the city and region.
Elliott said he hopes he and the rest of the Klamath Board of County Commissioners can play an active part in the summit and its planning.
“Whatever we can do to assist, we will do,” he said.
Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said he had been informed of the summit about two days ago while attending hearings regarding the four dams on the Klamath River.
What the goal or outcome of the summit would be is unclear to Addington and he said that there was still a lot of work to be done before it happened. But he is happy that something is being done to address concerns and that the association would do what was needed to participate.
Burr acknowledged that much still needed to happen before the summit was held, but emphasized the governors’ commitment to it.
“We’re 100 percent committed,” he said.