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Walden talks about 'takings' case
by HOLLY DILLEMUTH, Herald and News 2/3/17
Oregon’s U.S. Congressman Greg Walden speaks with Klamath Falls residents Dorothy Stuntebeck, left, and Marie Ganong, center, at his Washington, D.C., office Thursday
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., took his coffee in a Crater Lake National Park mug in his office on Thursday morning during a visit with Klamath Falls residents
A red toy Harry & David truck sits on the shelf behind him, and an Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls pennant hangs on a wall in his office lobby, located in the U.S. House of Representatives Rayburn building.
Walden pointed out another familiar item in his office: A framed photograph of the Bucket Brigade held in Klamath Falls in 2001.
Walden, along with then Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, were both part of the Bucket Brigade down Main Street in downtown Klamath Falls, each handing off a bucket
full of water from Lake Ewauna down the line, where it was then tossed into the A Canal as part of a massive demonstration.
“Look at that, he hasn’t changed a bit,” said Klamath Falls resident Marie Ganong, with a laugh, drawing a smile from Walden.
When presented with a copy of the H&N’s October 2001 special section, “Summer of Struggle,” loaned by the Klamath County Museum, Walden flipped through the pages.
The special section, which also has a photo of Walden on the cover, details the stories and accounts of both the Klamath Basin Bureau of Reclamation Office and
numerous farmers affected by the shutoff of irrigation water in the Klamath Basin and surrounding areas in 2001.
“It captured the nation’s attention, for a bigger problem in the West that we were ground zero for the devastation,” Walden said. “It was a terrible injustice. It was brought on by bureaucrats misbehaving.”
Around the time of the demonstration, Walden said he was able to get the Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing regarding the water shutoffs, and additional hearings in the Klamath Basin.
“We called on the Natural Academy of Sciences to do an independent scientific review, that was part of what the Department of Interior under Gail Norton agreed to do,” Walden said. “The result is ... the bureaucrats got it wrong.”
Walden emphasized the endangered sucker as important for the environment in the Klamath Basin, and for the Klamath Tribes. He didn’t mince words, however, in speaking to the impact of water shutoff to farmers, stemming
from biological opinions related to the Endangered Species Act.
“The high lake levels didn’t necessarily help the suckers, if I remember correctly,” Walden said.
“The farmers were the ones who paid the ultimate price for government bad behavior ... There are people who took their lives over this — enormous human tragedy. It wasn’t good for the environment, it wasn’t good for anybody.”
Federal claims court case
Walden, not wanting to guess the outcome of the current “takings” case underway at the United States Federal Court of Claims, shared his hopes. The trial is in its fifth day Friday, and could continue up to mid- to late-February.
“My hope is that finally, after all these years, the farm families of the Basin who were so mistreated and adversely affected get just compensation from their government,”
Walden said. “I believe they’ve earned it. I hope the court concurs.”
Walden said there were federal programs in the Farm Bill with funding allocated to the Klamath Basin to conduct conservation and water management projects.
“That in no way makes up for a lost crop year and foreclosure and suicide,” Walden said.
Walden meets with members of the Klamath Water Users Association Friday to continue ongoing discussions related to water in the Klamath Basin. He commented
only in generalities about the meeting, and that it would involve continuing discussions about water in the Klamath Basin.
“There’s many moving parts and competing interests,” Walden said.
Meeting with President Trump
Walden also touched on a meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, in which he discussed among other topics, water in the context of the Western United States.
“I also raised forestry and land management and water issues directly,” Walden said. “He wants to get a meeting together with the soon-to-be Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.”
Walden called Zinke, a Montana Republican who has yet to be confirmed in the position, a “good, solid westerner” for the head of Interior.
“He has a real commitment to our national parks, that have been in such disrepair,” Walden said. “He says, ‘let’s take care of what we have.’”
Walden shared hopes that if confirmed, Zinke could inject some “common sense” into issues pertaining to the West.
“I just want to get him 51 votes in the Senate,” Walden said. “I would love to have him come out to the Basin.”
Immigrant decree mishandled
Walden also commented on President Trump’s ban on travel for certain immigrants traveling into the United States.
“The president’s first job is to secure the country, that’s No. 1,” Walden said. “ISIS has a plan to infiltrate refugee programs, to get their fighters into foreign
countries. This is a pause,” Walden added.
“Was it well rolled out? No. It’s a new administration, just starting. They didn’t handle it well. There’s a lot of confusion. We’ve gotten some clarity now,” he
added. “Now Green card holders are exempt ... It’s not a ban on any religion.”
In working with President Trump, Walden described him as “introspective” on topics they’ve discussed related to Western issues.
“He’s very inquisitive though,” Walden said. It was a very positive meeting. We covered a lot of ground.”
Following the interview, Walden’s staff led the H&N and local residents on a tour of the U.S. Capitol building.
The H&N continues coverage of the trial on Friday at www.heraldandnews.com with updates on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day.
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