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Walden: Don’t rush review, Agreement Background, and Ransom Note
Lawmaker doesn’t expect congressional action this year
By Ty Beaver,  Herald and News 1/25/08

   An Oregon congressma n sa id T hu rsday that it is unlikely any le g i s l at i o n
p er t a i n i n g to the Klama t h B a s i n Restoration A g r e ement could make it t h r ou g h Congress in 2008.
   U . S . R e p . G r e g Walden, R-Ore., called the agreement a step forward, but said its rev iew shou ld n’t be rushed. The proposed settlement a llocates water resources in the Klamath River Basin, settling long-standing issues between tribes, fisheries, irrigators and environmentalists. It also advocates removal of four PacifiCorp dams.

The 256-page document was released to the public a little more than a week ago, ending two-and-a-half years of closed-door meetings. It is being reviewed by county and tribal governments, fishery groups, environmentalists and irrigation districts.
   Proponents initially said the proposal could be to Congress by late February, but Walden and other lawmakers say the agreement should be dealt with carefully and not rushed.
   “I wouldn’t look for legislative action to take place until next year,” Walden said.
   The cost
   The price of the settlement, $1 billion with about $400 million coming from new sources, shouldn’t be an issue, he added. The federal government has funded projects of similar magnitude and cost, such as revitalization of the Florida Everglades.
   Opposition to the agreement also didn’t surprise the congressman and likely won’t surprise other federal lawmakers.
   “Agreements that are this extensive and this detailed generally don’t make everybody happy,” he said.
   But questions about portions of the agreement — its impact on areas above Upper Klamath Lake, water storage needs and costs of dam removal on the Klamath River — still need to be answered, Walden said.
   T he law maker also is concerned there is no agreement yet between stakeholders and PacifiCorp, since the restoration deal hinges on dam removal.
   Walden and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., also said that, given the amount of time it took to draft the document, time would also be needed for people to read and understand it.
   “I don’t think you can quickly fund an agreement that took the better part of three years to put together,” said Tom Towslee, Wyden’s spokesman. “Rep. Walden might even be optimistic.”
   An official with Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office indicated Wednesday that he also didn’t expect new funding for the agreement until the 2010 federal budget.
   No surprises
   Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association and a participant in drafting the agreement, said he wasn’t surprised by Walden’s and other lawmakers’ remarks.
   “ We’ve missed some opportunities as a group,” he said, adding the group still plans to work with lawmakers.
   Jeff Mitchell, Klamath tribal council member, said those supporting the agreement will do as much as possible with Congress and the current federal administration.
   “ That’s our goal and we’re going to work toward that,” he said.
Agreement background

   Twenty-six stakeholders representing various groups worked more than two years to draft the 256-page Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
   It is estimated to cost more than $960 million over 10 years to implement. If it is approved, Klamath Project irrigators would have a predictable source of water, allocated based on water available.
   Off- project irrigators would need to retire 30,000 acre-feet of water to help increase storage in Upper Klamath Lake. All irrigators would benefit from a stable power rate and the Klamath Tribes would drop water adjudication claims against Project irrigators.
   All stakeholders also would support the Tribes’ efforts to acquire 90,000 acres of private forestland along Highway 97 between Chiloquin and Chemult.
   Opponents to the agreement, which include off-Project irrigators, say none of the items noted by proponents are solid guarantees or promises in the agreement.
Settlement called a ‘ransom note’  
   State Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, said Thursday he has serious doubts about the equity of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
   “The water settlement looks more like a ransom note,” he said.
   Garrard criticized the amount of benefits the Klamath Tribes would receive if the agreement were implemented versus other stakeholders, specifically irrigators.
            He also said he had doubts about the possibility of moving the agreement along as quickly as initially suggested, citing the need to secure PacifiCorp’s cooperation and clear up any other problems.
   Despite his misgivings, if a majority of irrigators in the Klamath Basin end up supporting the agreement, Garrard said he would support it as well.




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