Facilitator to aid Interior on water talks
A coalition aimed at bringing multiple parties together to
discuss the future of water resources in the Klamath Basin
is hiring an additional facilitator to help with the effort.
Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to the Secretary of the
Interior on water and western resource issues, said Friday
he is continuing to take part in the so-called “Coalition of
the Willing” meetings in addition to the facilitator.
Mikkelsen met with the coalition at the building housing the
Bureau of Land Management office in Medford on July 30 and
“This is supplementing what we’ve been doing,” Mikkelsen
said, of the facilitator position. “What we decided this
week while we were out there is we would allow the
facilitator to use the month of August to basically do his
interviews and discussions with all of the individual
parties in the Basin, and then they would convene a meeting
in September … We’ll be back in early October to see how
Mikkelsen also emphasized solutions are nowhere on the
horizon as work towards that goal continues on.
The goal is to reach consensus among the various interests
in the Basin — after a legislative solution failed to pass
in Congress several years ago — to see if an agreement can
be reached in sharing the water to both protect endangered
fish and keep irrigators solvent. It involves parties from
the Klamath River headwaters in Oregon to where it flows
into the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.
“I would not want to advertise that we are close to any
long-term solutions at this point,” Mikkelsen said.
“Now it’s time to take the next step and to start seeing if
the parties can actually start talking about difficult
issues that need resolution,” Mikkelsen added.
The coalition meetings are closed to the public and the
media and are being held in Medford or Redding to
accommodate as many parties as possible, Mikkelsen said. A
previous request to attend the meeting as a media observer
“I do not anticipate that they will be public meetings with
the facilitator, either, at least to start with,” Mikkelsen
“We’ve got probably 50 or 60 people and maybe 20 to 30
different entities in the room right now, and just to open
it up for a wide open public discussion at this point, when
we’re in the very initial stages … we just can’t deal with
those kinds of numbers right now because we don’t have
anything to talk about.”
Mikkelsen confirmed that at least one representative from
Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and from local government
officials are attending the coalition, though he said no
more than two people are representing one entity. U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin
Area Office, and USGS have also participated in discussions,
“None of the counties or the cities participating have ever
had a quorum,” Mikkelsen said. “In fact, that’s what we’ve
“Mostly what I would term that’s been happening over the
last six to nine months … is our educational efforts,”
Mikkelsen said coalition members have heard technical
presentations on water quality, fish disease, as well as the
needs of agriculture and the needs of fish, including on
Klamath Basin suckers.
“All of the tribal nations have made presentations, all of
the irrigator interests across the Basin, from the Scott and
Shasta watersheds all the way to the Upper Klamath Lake
tributaries, including the Project irrigators, have made
presentations,” Mikkelsen said.
The Klamath Tribes are also participating. (In past sessions
they were not at the table due to friction between the
Tribes and Mikkelsen).
Congressional delegations representatives have been on hand
at coalition meetings as well.
“We have not requested congressional funding nor are are
there any plans right now to do so until we’ve got something
more concrete to take to Congress,” Mikkelsen said.
Mikkelsen said he will be returning to Medford or Redding
for a coalition meeting in October, with dates to be
“We evaluate this on a meeting by meeting basis, and we will
see what is in front of us in October and then respond at
that time of further meeting scheduling,” Mikkelsen said.
“If it is warranted, I am always available to come back to
“We’ve been having these meetings in Medford simply because
of travel constraints for all the rest of the parties.”
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