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Upper Basin irrigators strive for equitable balance

True settlement is needed to resolve water issues; KBRA does not deliver

guest commentary by TOM MALLAMS, Herald and News 6/9/13


   As an elected Klamath County commissioner, I continue to welcome any and all opinions and comments on the many critical issues we face.


   I certainly may not agree with some of the opinions that are put forth, and some individuals will certainly not agree with all my opinions. However, I will always continue to be respectful within our differing opinions.


   With the resounding election results in 2010 and 2012, my well-known and documented opinions and desired direction mirror the mandates coming from the citizens of Klamath County.


   In response to a guest commentary in the Herald and News May 26, I would like to correct a few of the inaccurate claims. I also state the obvious; I am an irrigator in the Upper Basin and have been for 35 years.


   Since being elected, I have not been an active participant in the adjudication process where we filed our contest jointly with many similarly affected irrigators. My wife now runs all the day-to-day operations.


   After participating in the “closed door” Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement meetings for a number of years, I, along with Siskiyou County, hold ourselves accountable for being able to hold the line that the citizens of both counties mandated.


   Of course, it was virtually impossible to make many meaningful changes, while being outnumbered approximately 25 to 2. (A true David and Goliath scenario).


   Oftentimes, the best we could accomplish was preventing additional concessions. I am proud to say we were, again, always a vocal voice of what the citizens continue to believe in.


   Unfortunately, the KBRA and the adjudication became one and the same, with the same attorney representing Oregon Water Resources Department in the KBRA closed door meetings, and advising the OWRD how to rule in the adjudication. This is where much of the KBRA simply got rolled into the adjudication.


   Make no mistake about it: the KBRA advocates that many of Klamath County’s irrigators be shut down. Anyone who does not believe this should read the recent “Dispute Initiation Notice” from the Yurok Tribe.


   This notice clearly demands OWRD shut down Klamath County irrigators to provide for “environmental water,” that was agreed to be provided in the KBRA. I am hopeful our local courts will provide a much more judicious process for adjudication participants.


   (Documents from Yurok Tribe related to this can be found at www.klamathbasincrisis.org.)


   To be fully informed within the original adjudication claims, one has to do the math. The Tribal claims, oftentimes, amounted to more water than even exists. During the adjudication, the Klamath Tribal Claims were substantially reduced on three different occasions, only because of the contested cases brought forward by Upper Basin contestants.


   Also, adding up the claims put forth by the Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Reclamation Project leadership and all its attorneys added up to 1.1 million acre feet of water. This is literally all the water that exists in the entire Klamath Basin and twice as much water than has ever been used within the Reclamation Project.


   The irrigators in the Upper Basin had no choice but to file “contests” to the tribal claims and the Klamath Project claims.


   If the Upper Basin contestants had not filed claims in opposition, they would automatically lose the use of their water rights if these claims were to be granted.


   The authors of the negative May 26 commentary are doing nothing more than repeating history. Whenever supporters of a failing misguided direction become desperate, they undoubtedly resort to unfounded personal attacks.


   As an elected official, I will openly accept criticism from any citizen. However, I also promised to never avoid the hard decisions, but rather meet them head on, and work for solutions that are supported by the citizens that I represent. Again, sometimes, not everyone will be satisfied when tough choices have to be made, but I am disappointed the authors have degraded to this level.


   All the Upper Basin irrigators have been striving for is equitable balance. There have been numerous offers to settle these disputes by Upper Basin irrigators, all of which have been rebuffed by Project and Tribal leaders. That equitable balance is what is still sought after.


   The KBRA started out as a means to achieve this sought-after balance. Unfortunately, it currently does not deliver. What we need is a true settlement that actually resolves these issues, rather than leaving most of Klamath County out in the cold.


   Instead of extremely negative articles attempting to promote dam removal and the KBRA, I urge parties to come to the table and craft a truly viable agreement that all of Klamath County and our federal legislators can support.


   I do look forward to a united community, and as always, my door is open to visit with the citizens of Klamath County.



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