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Let's unite the basins, based on the benefits of a restored river
Klamath River key to 'brand'

By Jim and Stephanie Carpenter
Guest columnists

Herald and News, Op/Ed - pg A10
Published Monday, March 22, 2004

"Brand Oregon" is all the buzz upstate with the rollout of Gov. Ted Kulongoski state marketing campaign.  Designed by the Portland advertising firm Wieden + Kennedy, the theme is quality, centered on Oregon's high-toned but casual lifestyle, and its agricultural products, wild salmon and wine.  The idea is to promote Oregon for tourists and businesses looking to relocate, and the state's agricultural and fish commodities to the upmarket consumer.

The effort builds on the state's new slogan, "Oregon, We Love Dreamers."  More than just a feel-good campaign, this new initiative will present a cohesive and coordinated view of the state for visitors with a bottom line to improve the state's economy.

We agree that a makeover was needed.  "Oregon, things look different here" is no longer seen as a particularly positive statement.  Something dramatic is needed to leverage Oregon out of the economic doldrums, and envisioning a new dream is a good beginning.

The South Portal is a project we have been working on with a similar vision.  The downtown redevelopment of the Lake Ewauna waterfront, designed to improve the first impression as travelers arrive from the south, and to provide a range of services for visitors and locals alike.  Key to the project is expanded public access to the lake and Link River corridor and siting a visitor-interpretive center near the downtown exit of Highway 97.

Developing a local brand would enhance our marketing of Klamath Falls as the portal to the Basin - something along the lines of "It's The Water" that sold so many six-packs over the years.  The Klamath Basin is the poster child for water.  Our opportunity is to "brand" it and use it as a positive statement about our water, our stewardship, and the lifestyle our water resources nourish in this incredibly diverse and naturally blessed watershed.

It is our story.  We own it, and yet we are mostly playing defense in reaction to outside assaults by carpetbaggers from the left and right who think they know the Basin and what we locals need to be doing with our resource issues.

Could be a focus

We propose that a Klamath Basin, branded and bonded by our water, would mesh well with the experiential lifestyle brand being promoted by the state.  But even more important, it serves as a focus for developing a shared vision of community with its roots sustained by our river.

Klamath Falls is headwaters and hub of a region that has for too long been languishing for lack of common purpose and collective sense of place.  The last time we recall the community coming together in this way was a result of the drought more than a decade ago, and it produced the Vision 2002 document.  It is still a viable planning tool and example of what a community can pull together, given the challenge.  Perhaps we, as a community, should re-engage in an update.  Even though the drought does not seem so severe this year, the challenges of allocating our water resources are even more daunting.

The good news is that more and more people are taking up the task.  Conferences, seminars, groups, agencies, councils, clubs and committees meet more or less constantly in search of solutions.

Most recently, Oregon State University and others convened a gathering, the fifth in an ongoing series of biennial watershed conferences, to share data and describe conditions across the watershed.  What stood out for us at this year's conferences was the Basinwide purview of the discussions - ridgetop to river mouth.  Increasingly, the conferences are taking on a watershedwide scope, recognizing that the old paradigm of upper and lower Basin planning does not fit the natural model of interdependent river basin.

For us, the most encouraging development of the conference has been the inclusion of an interactive element in the agenda.  We are recognizing that solutions will not be just data-driven, even if wrapped in the best science, but will need to engage the community as well in the planning process.

The facilitator was Bob Chadwick, a former Winema Forest supervisor, now running consensus seminars for conflict resolution.  Chadwick has a format that engages everyone in the dialogue.  Sitting in small circles, everyone gets a chance to talk and everyone listens with no interruptions.  The conversations start with brief self-introductions.  Participant then write down short statements of the worst and the best possible out-comes they imagine for the Basin.  The group explores the common themes.  The results demonstrate a vision for the Basin beyond conflict.  The exercise shows how much more we have that unites us than divides us.  The process is based on values.  The common thread is quality of life.

What worked so well for the conference attendees could be expanded to a Basinwide  dialogue to establish the shared vision for this sense of place, the brand of quality lifestyle and values organized around the river.

Use license process

We think our best opportunity for achieving this is through the relicensing process PacifiCorp is undertaking for its hydro facilities along the Klamath River.  Here is how:  Expand the scope of the stakeholder meetings that have been going on for a couple of years.

The fruit of the meetings, PacifiCorp's draft application for relicensing, has been submitted.  It is pretty much status quo from what we have seen, although the Link River Dam will no longer be used for power production, as the cost-benefit for fish screens just did not pencil out.  So, too, for fish passage for salmon at the other dams.  Cost for perceived benefit was not there.

We think the analysis was too narrowly focused.  PacifiCorp looked only at the stretch of the Klamath River within its project, and did not factor in at all the value of "ecosystem services" that a fully functional river provides for free: water quality, species habitat and the economic and cultural value of a restored salmon run - once the third largest on the West Coast.

If PacifiCorp expanded its vision to include the entire Basin and re-licensed the project the project with the goal of modifying the dams to provide fish passage and low-head hydroelectric production and a free-flowing river at the same time, the benefits would surely exceed the value of the electricity when applied to the entire Klamath watershed.

The dams could become the rallying point for restoration rather then the bottleneck and barrier they represent between the upper and lower basin.  Restoration of the river would become the "brand" under which our communities could be brought together in real "eco"nomic sustainability.


Jim and Stephanie Carpenter own Carpenter Design, Inc., a consulting and contracting firm in Klamath Falls that networks people and resources.  They work with a variety of groups locally on building community.

 
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