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Deadline passes. No agreement yet on water pact
An upper Basin water rights “agreement in principle” (AIP) that was tentatively scheduled to be finalized Friday still needs more work, though the stakeholders crafting the agreement said they are optimistic it will be finalized soon.
The Jan. 17 deadline was agreed upon by Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin water users who began negotiating elements of the agreement last year. The stakeholders’ group, called the Upper Basin Water Group, is a subcommittee of the Klamath Basin Task Force, which is coordinated by Richard Whitman, Gov. John Kitzhaber’s natural resource adviser. The task force’s objective is to create an all-inclusive piece of legislation that addresses power delivery to on- and off-project irrigators, resolves water issues above Upper Klamath Lake and reduces the federal budget for the projects.The task force was appointed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. A new deadline has not been slated
The AIP is the portion of the legislation that addresses water allocation, including resolving water use and fisheries conflicts and providing support for economic development of the Klamath Tribes.“(Friday) was never a hard and fast deadline. Sen. Wyden is confident that a final agreement will be reached soon. The important thing is that this be done right rather than fast. Once it is done the necessary legislation will be introduced,” said Tom Towslee, a spokesman for Wyden, in an email.
A new deadline has not been set. Meetings are expected to continue next week.Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribal Council, said although the group has been fastidiously working toward a finished product, he was fairly sure finalizing the pact would take longer than the projected deadline.
“It takes quite a bit of technical work to look at water flows and to flush out riparian corridor management, Gentry said.The group also is defining terms like “landowner entity” to shore up the pact’s preliminary framework and to understand how it might be implemented once complete, he added.
Gentry said the stakeholders are still on board to reach a final agreement.According to Whitman, the group is in close communication with Sen. Wyden’s office. He said Wyden and Kitzhaber are comfortable that the group is continuing to make substantial progress toward a final agreement.
“The group is working carefully through each part of the agreement, to assure that the final product is one that everyone is confident will work to meet the needs of all interests in the Upper Basin,” Whitman said in an email.The task force hopes to introduce the Basin legislation to Congress early this year.
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Page Updated: Tuesday January 21, 2014 03:08 AM Pacific
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