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Bureau takes new program for test drive

CHILOQUIN - "Basinwide" is the new buzz word for groups trying to find balance in the Klamath Basin water issue.

About 30 people, including federal, state and tribal officials, gathered Thursday at the Klamath Tribes Administration Building to talk about how to create a program leading to a Basinwide solution.

The meeting was the fourth in a series of five, the last of which will be tonight in Klamath Falls. Previous meetings were held in Yreka, Arcata and Klamath, Calif.

The plan is known as the Conservation Implementation Program. It is expected to be the focus of a state-federal initiative announced last week by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The Chiloquin meeting lasted for a little more than two hours. Participants talked about what can and can't be solved by groups from the headwaters of the Williamson and Sprague rivers to the mouth of the Klamath River working together.

"This program has to end somewhere, it can't cover the whole wide world," said Christine Karas, deputy manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Falls office.

But much needs to be defined about the program aside from being Basinwide. Where will the meetings be? What will the organization look like? What are the goals?

And, who will lead it? "Right now, no one agrees on who that should be," Karas said.

Karas emphasized that the Bureau is facilitating the meetings, but is not the designated leader.

Solid leadership is needed, said Becky Hyde, whose family has a ranch on the Williamson River. But that leadership can't come down from the top and force things on the people, she said.

"I am really scared that we are not going to reach the little people in this Basin," she said.

Carl Brown, owner of the Agency Lake Resort, said getting a Basinwide program is imperative.

"Something needs to happen or the Basin will die," Brown said.

Karas said top-down leadership wouldn't work.

"If you know the folks who live in this Basin, that is not going to be the way to go," she said.

Curt Mullis, manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Klamath Falls office said the restoration of the two endangered suckers in the Basin is something that could be achieved through the program because the suckers live solely in the Basin.
But how to gauge sucker restoration? How many suckers are out there anyway?

"We are never going to know how many suckers are out there," he said. "That is biologically impossible."

He said the quality of habitat available for the suckers and quality of water are key factors in determining how the suckers are doing.

In contrast to the suckers, the coho salmon aren't confined to the Basin. They live much of their lives in the sea, and stocks of them spawn in the Rogue River in western Oregon and the Mad River south of the Klamath Basin.

Thus, the program can help restore the fish, but other efforts will be needed as well, said Irma Largomarsino, supervisor of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service's Arcata Field Office. Adding to the difficulty of restoring the coho are the physical changes to the Klamath River, with the addition of hydroelectrical dams, in the last century.

"It is not likely that they will ever be back to historical levels, but that does not mean they will be delisted," she said.

Karas said the turnout for the Chiloquin meeting was disappointing, although people from many sides of the issue came.

"We had a pretty good cross-cut, just a small number," she said.

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