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County commissioners to provide a facilitator

by Steve Kadel, Herald and News 2/14/08

   Representatives of the Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators, of f-Project irrigators and Klamath Tribes will begin meeting to discuss differences they have with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
   During a work session Wednesday, the Klamath County commissioners encouraged the three parties to meet to solve issues they have — particularly with Section 16 of the settlement document.
   Commissioners will provide a place to meet and a facilitator not employed by Klamath County. A date for the first meeting was not set, although a motion passed by the commissioners stipulated the parties had until May 1 to make a recommendation on Section 16. The restoration agreement took 26 stakeholders 2-1/2 years of negotiations to develop. The 256-page document, released Jan. 15, allocates water in the Klamath River Basin among tribes, irrigators, conservationists and fisheries.
   It also advocates removal of four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp, a Portland-based power company.
   Andrea Rabe, an Upper Basin irrigator, said many off-Project irrigators are concerned about water rights and power.
   “We would like to see assurances on water delivery and equal access to power rates,” she said.
   Rabe, a board member of the Resource Conservancy, said it might take just a couple of sessions to determine whether a compromise can be reached.
   Commissioner John Elliott said it’s unclear who speaks for the off-Project irrigators.
   Al Switzer agreed, saying it’s important to know who represents that group.
   “That’s going to be critical for people sitting at the table,” he said.
   Rabe said the Resource Conservancy has irrigators from a wide geographic area, with “a very diverse representation.”
   Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said he just wants to move forward.
   Common ground
   Switzer said it’s important for the three groups to find common ground.
   “We’re at a crucial point here with our community,” he said.
   Meanwhile, Commissioner Bill Brown brought up the issue of removing four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River. That’s a condition on which the entire settlement package hinges.
   “I’ve never been a supporter of dam removal,” Brown said. “There’s no science behind it and it would probably affect our rate payers.”
   PacifiCorp has opposed dam removal, preferring to trap fish and truck them around dams.
   Elliott noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide whether to renew PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric license, has called for fish ladders at the dams at an estimated cost of $300,000.
   “One way or another, the rates are going up,”
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