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County leaders talk water, dams

Klamath, Siskiyou boards plan to meet regularly about water pact

By TY BEAVER H&N Staff Writer August 20, 2008

DORRIS — The potential impact of removing four Klamath River hydroelectric dams. The water supply needs of irrigators. The future of salmon in the upper Klamath Basin.

The boards of Klamath County commissioners and Siskiyou County supervisors met Tuesday in Dorris to discuss portions of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and consider future collaboration on issues of mutual concern.

Though the boards made no decisions, members said the meeting opened an important dialogue, and they plan to meet regularly.

“It was a positive endeavor,” said Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott.

Siskiyou County supervisor Jim Cook said the meeting’s purpose was to open dialogue between the two county governments. Many California county governments collaborate with each other and the Siskiyou supervisors wanted to do the same with their Oregon neighbors.

The restoration agreement is a 256-page document developed by fishing, farming, tribal, environmental and governmental stakeholders. Along with removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, it seeks stabilized water supplies and power rates for irrigators and use of public funds to buy private land for the Klamath Tribes.

Siskiyou County supervisors voted against the agreement because they don’t want the dams removed. Klamath County commissioners haven’t voted yet.

The meeting opened with public comment.

Differing views

Proponents of the water settlement proposal described it as a watershed agreement that provides a road map to a stable future. Opponents said the agreement doesn’t address real problems within the watershed and is cultural genocide.

The Siskiyou supervisors restated their unanimous position against the agreement, saying there are unanswered questions about dam removal and salmon in the upper reaches of the river. Those questions prompted supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff to visit lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and explain the county’s position.

“There’s too much not on the table for us that we want addressed,” Kobseff said.

Klamath County commissioners stated their individual opinions about the agreement. Commissioner Bill Brown said everyone wants a water settlement, but it’s important how it is done. The stance of the Siskiyou supervisors and other groups opposed to the agreement indicates not everyone sees it as being in their best interest, he said.

Elliott spoke toward historic landmarks the restoration agreement marked with the cooperation of former opponents in the Basin, but he said he was open a discussion of logical alternatives.

Klamath County Commissioner Al Switzer expressed his opposition to dam removal and desire to see agriculture remain viable, but also said he didn’t see the two counties impacting the future of the dams.

“We don’t own them,” he said.
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