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Guest Commentary:  Restoration agreement will pain many in Klamath River area

November 3, 2008 Herald and News, by Al Bowa and the board members of the Klamath Basin Alliance
   On Oct. 26, a guest opinion to the editor of the Herald and News was printed in support of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement that was signed by 74 people.

    Many of the signatories are those who have been intimately involved in the secret drafting of this agreement. In the opinion piece, they speak of the pain felt by the community during the water shutoff of 2001, but they really don’t address the pain that will be felt by those who are left on the periphery if this agreement becomes an actuality.

    Many Siskiyou County residents who own private property in areas of the Copco and Iron Gate dams will see their land devalued, thus incurring an unknown monetary loss to Siskiyou County.

    Local ranchers and farmers above the Klamath Lake are asked to give up 30,000 acre feet of water in order to inflate stream flows and lake levels above what is available in most years. This is in addition to nearly 100,000 acres already acquired by government agencies and The Nature Conservancy and taken off our tax rolls.

    Klamath Project irrigation would also be considerably downsized, which affects our local economy.

    There is the possibility of the loss of our national forest if the Tribes choose to place the Mazama Tree Farm into a tax-exempt tribal trust that can then be traded for said forest without congressional approval. And, without the dams, 70,000 households will see an increase in their electrical rates. These issues are some of the main factors leading many to oppose the agreement.

    The Klamath Basin Alliance Inc. has recently collected over 600 petitions in opposition to the restoration agreement and these petitions will be presented in the near future to our elected officials. These petitions are in addition to more than 1,100 petitions presented by the alliance to officials in the past five years against a federally funded tribal land gift alone, land that the tribes previously sold. This does not include over 1,000 petitions collected and presented by the late Dr. Calvin Hunt.

    Those who have signed the current petitions in opposition to the restoration agreement are not the “silent” majority. They are those who are not afraid to voice their opinion in opposition of something they believe is not only harmful to them personally, but also to the communities that would fall under this agreement. But there are other “silent” voices out there that are afraid to speak up for fear to retribution.

    The voices of many have been left out of the billion-dollar restoration agreement as it was hammered out in secret behind closed doors. Remember, for an agreement to be an agreement, it needs to be agreeable to all parties.

The Klamath Basin Alliance Inc. is a nonprofit organization with a 10- to 15-member board of directors from diverse backgrounds. It was formed in 2003 to keep the Winema-Fremont National Forest in public ownership.

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