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Off-Project group: Water pact will have negative result

by Steve Kadel, Herald and News 12/22/07
            Members of a stakeholder group representing agriculture say the Klamath River settlement agreement, due to be released any day, will have negative consequences for the Klamath Basin.
            "We think what is being proposed is extremely Draconian," said Edward Bartell, who represented the Basin's off-Project irrigators during the talks.   
            He couldn’t be specific, citing an agreement among participants to keep details secret until the document is released.
            Representatives of 26 stakeholder groups - those most affected by water policy - have been meeting for three years to find solutions to the Klamath Basin's water allocation problems. They include representatives of state and federal government, tribes, environmentalists and agriculture interests.
   Goals not met
   Bartell said the off-Project irrigators — farmers who draw water from the system who are not part of the Bureau of Reclamation Project — saw three goals identified in framework documents going into the talks: a reliable and affordable power rate for their members, access to a sustainable water supply, and protection from new Endangered Species Act regulations that might result from the settlement.
   None of those will be met by the final document, he said.
   The off-Project irrigators’ board of directors sent a letter to the working group's other stakeholders stating their objection to the recommendations. Bartell said the group represents people with 700 irrigation power meters throughout the Basin, although some families have more than one meter.
   400-page document
   Carole Canevari and Martin Kerns, other members of the off-Project group, agreed with Bartell, and said they also oppose the coming recommendations. They fear policies will be fasttracked before the public has a chance to understand the effects.
   “People need to read it and understand it before any decisions are made,” Canevari said.
   Kerns said the settlement document would be about 400 pages.
   Bartell said the working group was stacked against agriculture from the beginning. Only off-Project users and the Klamath Water Users Association had seats at the table, he said.
   In addition, he said the agriculture interests were prevented from attending all discussions.
‘Extremely negative’
   “We feel it was being actively promoted behind the scenes,” Bartell said of the settlement agreement. “What is there now, we see as extremely negative. I think it’s bad for everyone in the Basin.”
   Other stakeholders say that the agreement is imminent.
   Toby Freeman , spokesman for Pacifi-Corp., while not stating support or opposition to an agreement, last week expressed concern that the group might not be fully assessing impact of possible removal of dams.
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