Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Guest Opinion Law of the river
By Anthony Intiso, Yreka, Pioneer Press April 9, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends, citizens of Yreka and Siskiyou County, lend me your ears. For those of you who were unable to attend the meeting of the 25th of March, in which the proponents of dam removal and parties to the "Settlement Agreement" were to be asked "tough questions" by and large, may have been direct questions, but certainly were not very tough.
The focus of the questions was primarily on dam removal and the effects on that removal.
Although dam removal is very important, less than three minutes on the agreement itself was covered. I believe the agreement is equally important, because, even if the dams remain and the current agreement were to be implemented, the effect on Siskiyou County citizens' land and water rights would be devastating. On April 1 the board of supervisors voted unanimously to oppose both the removal of the dams and to the current Klamath Basin Settlement Agreement. Now that the supervisors have taken an official position in opposition to both issues, it is time for them to step forward and become the lead agency, providing leadership and meaningful solutions. It will not be easy, because the framers of the agreement want the dams out and the new, current agreement in. But the board has a very important tool it can use to negotiate from a position of strength.
That tool, I will call the "law of the river," and it can help the board keep the dams intact and maintain sufficient water for the Basin farmers, fishing and water rights for the Indians, and a hydro-electric clause as well. What is this law? It is an existing document called, "Klamath River Basin Compact." An agreement entered into between the states of Oregon, California and the U.S. Congress agreeing to a set of conditions that would govern all of the "Basin" water and land rights, including the hunting, fishing, and water rights of the tribes.
This was done in 1957, ratified by both legislators of both states, the congress, and signed into law by the President of the United States. All that in just 12 legal-size pages instead of 257 pages. One important point, this compact can not be rescinded unless both legislators of both states agree to its rescission. This existing compact is still the " law of the river" and in effect today. But being ignored by the states, feds, Indians, and the out of the area enviro's. One other important point about the compact. A very recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on an Oregon case, ruled the ESA does not trump prior congressional mandates.
This means that the compact is not governed by the ESA. A 3-member commission, one from each state, governs this compact and a chairperson appointed by our President of the United States. In my conversations with Chairwoman Debra Crisps we discussed the role of the commission and how to enforce the compact. she indicated to me the commission would be coming out with a statement in the near future. By now you are wondering why hasn't this "compact" been enforced? Well, ask any farmer, rancher, or anyone who works the land for a living and they will tell you there is a concerted effort by government to take over all water rights, and out of local control. This compact allows the two states to govern rather than the feds.
I believe it is time for the board of supervisors to enter into discussions with the three commissioners and the Klamath County Commissioners from the state of Oregon and find a way to enforce this compact, which has worked so well for over 50 years. It should continue to remain "the law of the river."
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