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New BOR manager trades one complex post for another

Herald and News editorial 6/21/15 by editors Gerry O'Brian and Pat Bushey

     Theresa O’Rourke Bradford, the new Bureau of Reclamation manager for the Klamath Basin, comes to what is one of the most complex water systems in the United States from another complex water area, the Salton Sea in Southern California.

   We like her background and we like what she said in a Herald and News interview in Tuesday’s newspaper, which stressed the need for collaboration in finding answers to water issues and noted that this BOR office is “the most collaborative office and the most collaborative agency I’ve ever worked for.”

   The Klamath Office manages water allocations for the Klamath Reclamation Project, whose economic impact is estimated at $670 million.

   Before coming to Klamath Falls, O’Rourke Bradford oversaw the issuing of water permits as the Regulatory Branch Chief for the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers in Carlsbad, Calif., which meant dealing with stakeholders competing for limited water.  

   That makes it sound very much like the Klamath Basin which, in addition to the normal conflicts, is — like most of the West — in Year Four of a drought.

   The new Klamath manager also worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, all of which have a presence in the Klamath Basin, especially the two federal agencies.

   We liked the way she addressed the pattern in recent years of Bureau’s managers moving on after not spending much time here. It might average out to about two years a manager, depending on how a person does the counting.

   But it takes awhile for a manager to acquire the background, know the people, become familiar with recently affirmed tribal rights, work with irrigators, know what’s happening in Congress and coordinate with other government agencies that have a lot to say about what is going on with the Klamath River, Upper Klamath Lake and how it affects water releases.  

   That knowledge doesn’t come in a hurry and neither does developing relations important to making things work. Fortunately, making things works appears to be a strong point in O’Rourke Bradford’s background.

   As for how long she hopes to stay in Klamath County, she said this in an interview with H&N Staff Reporter Lacey Jarrell: “ There has been a lot of turnover here. I don’t have any ambition to move up so it would be great for me to be able to stay here.”

   We hope things work out well for the new manager. Obviously, if it does, it’s also works out well for the people in the Basin, where a big share of the county’s agricultural economy depends on water managed by the Bureau.



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