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KWUA appeals to Tribes: Let's talk
by HOLLY DILLEMUTH Herald and News Feb 18, 2018
On behalf of Klamath Water Users Association, the organization’s executive director Scott White is appealing to the Klamath Tribes to find solutions to help keep both the Lost River and shortnose sucker thriving in the region.
White said on Friday he has met with Klamath Tribes representatives in the past about water issues, but not about the future of the sucker, a topic in which he’d like to collaborate and explore long-term solutions to the species’ decline.
“They’ve felt meaningful, they’ve felt sincere,” White said Friday morning, of previous talks with Tribes representatives. “But then when these notices come out and we don’t get a heads-up that it’s coming out, we don’t have an opportunity to talk to them about it beforehand.”
White is referring to the 60-day notice filed Feb. 9 by Rosette, LLC on behalf of the Klamath Tribes, of an intent to file suit against the Bureau of Reclamation, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act.
“We agree with you that something needs to be done, so let’s partner up,” White said he told a Tribes biologist in Salem recently.
“That’s one of the invitations that I’ve sent to them,” he added, noting it was not a formal invitation.
“We would much rather sit around a table and constructively figure this out locally rather than a judge make a decision. Typically, the judges don’t understand the issues that are going on … a judge doesn’t have to deal with the sucker population declining – we do.”
White aired his frustrations amid efforts to meet and talk with the Tribes about finding solutions for helping the sucker species thrive. The notice of intent to file litigation all but dashed thoughts of meeting with the Tribes on the issues, though White still hopes to do so.
“It doesn’t feel like the community and the fish are in the best interest of the Tribes,” White said, “… and I hate feeling that way but that’s what it feels like. It feels like there’s something bigger than just the fish going on here.
“It just feels like they want to do their own thing rather than use the resources we have in the Basin, all of the resources that we have in the Basin, to try and solve this problem.”
White expressed a willingness on Friday to hold more meetings with the Tribes, however, and said he had invited Tribes representatives to meet about solutions prior to the notice of the pending litigation, which impacts irrigators represented by KWUA.
White said the gesture was informal, more of a “‘hey, we’ve got resources to help, let’s find a way to partner up.”
“At least personally, I don’t feel that the Tribes have ever taken that into consideration,” White said.
“If they decide to go down the path of litigation, this is going to impact the entire community, and they are a part of this community, so they’re going to feel it, too … economically. Agriculture drives this local economy, which as you can imagine, trickles down to buying pickups to going out to dinner to all of that. If our local businesses are suffering as a result and they’re having to shut down, those are less businesses that all of us in this community have an opportunity to patron.”
When asked if legal counsels for both entities should meet, White said: “I don’t think lawyers getting together and talking about stuff is beneficial for anybody.
“Our board needs to sit down with their council, our biologist needs to sit down with their biologist,” he said. “We need to get it out on the table how we all feel about this.”
White believes no entity on its own will be able to solve the problems associated with the sucker.
“The Tribes are not going to fix it, Fish & Wildlife’s not going to fix it, we’re all going to have to fix it together,” White said. “That’s the only way that I see this actually getting solved if we come together as a community and sit down and really get to the nuts and bolts of what the issues are, why are the suckers suffering, and what can we do collaboratively to fix it.
“We may have differing opinions on things but the goal is still the same,” White added.
White said he hopes to meet with Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) about water issues while the lawmaker is in Klamath Falls on Monday.
“What we would like to discuss is what kind of options are out there,” White said, “What can we start pursuing. And that I just don’t have a good sense of today.”
Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.
Gentry did comment earlier this week that the General Council was open to considering meeting with irrigators from the Klamath Irrigation District after it’s board president Ty Kliewer expressed interest in meeting. It was unclear as of press time if Gentry meant he was also willing to meet with KWUA representatives, which represent the interests of KID and a number of other irrigation districts.
No plans are in place for either KID or KWUA representatives to meet with representatives from the Klamath Tribes, but the offer stands, according to White.
“We have an outstanding invitation to meet with the Klamath Tribes anytime,” White said. “If they ever wanted to meet with us, we would make that happen.
“I think if we could talk about one thing with the Klamath Tribes, I would love to get our biologists together and talk about the sucker, and how do we begin solving the issue,” White added.
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OWRD, KWUA to talk 2018 irrigation
Those looking to learn more about the 2018 irrigation season for Klamath Project contract water users can do so at a meeting planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Exhibit building No. 2 at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.
Oregon Water Resources Department and Klamath Water Users Association will share about on-Project water use and a hydrologic overview of the coming water year.
Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd plans to talk about the community and economic perspective of the irrigation season.
There will be opportunities at the end for public comment and questions.
For more information, contact KWUA at 541-883-6100.
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