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Walden: KBRA not going anywhere

Klamath County residents discuss several local issues

By Devan Schwartz, Herald and News, September 26, 2012
Greg Welden
Congressman Greg Walden, R-OR the Republican representative for Oregon’s 2nd District, met for a roundtable at the Herald and News Monday afternoon after touring the Barry Point wildfire aftermath in Lake County.

Walden was faced with top concerns from a dozen Klamath County residents, including:

■ What’s likely to happen with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement?
■ What does the future hold for Kingsley Field?
■ What’s the future for local agriculture?
■ What’s the alternative to the Affordable Care Act?
■ Considering present-day politics, one constituent asked, “Is this the best we can do?”
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
Q: Toby Freeman of Pacific Power asked about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The KBRA aims to remove four dams, establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat and help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel called the Mazama Tree Farm. Since it appears to be stalled in Congress, Freeman wanted to know about its future.
A: The bills in the House and Senate have no traction, but perhaps there are less problematic pieces of it. Without great public support locally, he said, it would be difficult to champion its passage and it’s unlikely to succeed.
“It’s a pretty big elephant in the Basin,” said Walden. “But you either keep running into the same wall or you find a way around it. When three-quarters of the population says no to dam removal, that’s a problem you can’t skip over.”
Q: Herald and News forum editor Pat Bushey asked which parts of the KBRA might be taken up separately and moved forward.
A: Walden said he’d posed that same question to various governmental and citizen groups and is waiting to hear their response.
Kingsley Field
Q: Lt. Col. Lance McCuiston of the 173rd Fighter Wing asked for an update on the possibility that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta might use the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to determine the fate of Kingsley Field, and what Klamath Falls and Oregon could do to prepare.
A: “Klamath has made a strong case for itself,” Walden said. “Kingsley is on the map in a good way and should be the recipient for growth and added investment.”
The representative added the military’s presence in the Klamath Basin has been a very good thing.
Q: Col. Jeff Silver, also of the 173rd Fighter Wing, asked about the national situation with possible cuts to the Air National Guard.
A: “I’m a big advocate for the Guard,” Walden said. “The country has relied on the Guard and we’ve pushed back against cuts.”
Local Agriculture
Q: Willie Riggs, director of OSU Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center asked about the possibility of being defunded by as much as $17 million.
A: Through budget reconciliation, Walden said he hopes to avoid this.
Q: Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, asked about the congressional importance of irrigated agricultural lands in the West, given the fact that families now pay much less for food as a percentage of total income than they did in World War II — 7 percent rather than 25 percent he cited.
A: Walden first noted his co-sponsorship of the Reins Act, which requires any rule that would affect the economy by $100 million to require a vote of Congress and approval by the president.
He then lamented that regulators are in charge of the Democratic Party, and argued that regulators are a big threat to agricultural interests he supports.
Q: Herald and News editor Steve Miller followed up by asking whether Walden notices a difference between representatives from agricultural areas and those from urban areas.
A: Walden again mentioned a pervasive attitude against agriculture and related growth in regulatory agencies, which he called a cancerous growth on our economy.
Energy Issues
Q: Sara Marcus, geoscientist with Oregon Institute of Technology, asked for an update on what’s happening in Congress regarding energy policy.
A: Greg Walden said we need the whole portfolio, including what’s already happening with research and applied research at OIT.
We need a big and broad debate in D.C. about how tax subsidies are used in regard to energy, Walden said. “I want to see the U.S. become more energy independent.”
Q: Trey Senn of the Klamath County Economic Development Association asked whether Walden could streamline the process for getting the Swan Lake North Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project operational, from four years to two years, which requires working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
A: Walden did not directly respond to the future of the project, but did mention small-scale hydroelectric projects in both Klamath Falls and Bend which passed with less regulation.
Medicare and the Affordable Care Act
Q: Dr. Bob Jackman of Cascades East Family Medicine said the United States has poor health care statistics and in Klamath Falls the statistics are “terrible.” Acknowledging the country does have a variety of effective socialized health care programs, Jackman wanted to know what Walden sees as important steps forward in medical care and coverage.
A: Walden mentioned his experience as a former employer in the radio industry and paying his employees’ health care, and also his expansion of medical coverage while working in Salem as a state representative and state senator.
Walden voted to repeal the ACA and cited a Congressional Budget Office report which found that 11 million employees will not be offered insurance due to high costs for employers, and also that many Americans will elect not to get insurance because the fee is small — $650.
The representative advocated replacing the Affordable Care Act with a competitive marketplace and tort reform. “I wouldn’t do one giant bill again,” Walden said.
Q: Fran Gearhard, a retired teacher and member of the Herald and News reader advisory board, asked what informs Walden medically. She also wanted to know, if the Democratic plans are so bad, why Republicans don’t propose a better plan.
A: He cited his life experience and especially the difficulties of his mother-in-law with rheumatoid arthritis. He said he likes to see the consumer in the driver’s seat and never wants people making choices between medicine and food.
Walden also said other states are not as effective as Oregon and he is looking for solutions which won’t bankrupt the country in future generations, which he argued is the current fate of Medicare.
Issues of Governance
Q: Stan Gilbert of the Klamath Youth Development Center and the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce said a Gallup Poll indicated Congress has an 11 percent approval rating, and he wondered how Congress can work better for its constituents.
A: The first thing, Walden said, is passing a budget, which the House has done but the Senate has not. He added checks and balances are important, though Congress has worked together on veterans issues, avoiding military cutbacks and extending the existing tax code.
“After the elections we can get serious,” Walden said.
Q: Mayor Todd Kellstrom said the mood of Klamath County is very sour, noted the low congressional approval ratings, and asked whether this is the best we can do.
A: He said the country is divided and Congress is a reflection of the country. Congress needs plans to solve problems, he said, and, yes, it can do a lot better.
Q: Charles Massie, executive director of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, asked which areas were possible for reaching across the aisle to seek common ground.
A: Walden mentioned the expansion of wireless broadband internet, which he said could provide 300,000-700,000 jobs. He also pointed out that congressional subcommittees should act nonpartisan and can be very effective.
Q: Charles Massie followed up by asking for specific commonalities between the parties for the upcoming congressional session.
A: “We need to get America’s fiscal house in order,” Walden said, adding no one could bail out the U.S. if we were to become financially insolvent.
Dealing with taxes, entitlements, reasonable budgets and energy independence in our hemisphere, with a regional partnership of Canada-U.S.-Mexico, are places to start, Walden said.
Barry Point Fire Response
Q: Herald and News editor Steve Miller asked for Walden’s response to his tour of the Barry Point fire site.
A: Firstly, Walden acknowledged there is more than one side to every story, though he said he wasn’t pleased with what he heard of backfires and property damage.
He said it raises a lot of issues of how local knowledge is ignored by managing agencies. The next step, Walden said, is the recovery phase, and he noted one landowner with 25 miles of burned fence and similar conundrums.


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