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They’re missing the point on pact

Letter to editor of Herald and News by Dave Solem, KID 3/13/08

   It appears that some of our elected leaders are missing the point about the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
   State Rep. Bill Garrard, State Sen. Doug Whitsett, and others seem to be going out of their way to preserve the treacherous status quo on water.
   A recent example is a claim made on radio station KFLS and in the Herald and News that the agreement is illegal because of a statute that allows Oregon to negotiate water rights with a federally recognized tribe “to define the scope and attributes of rights to water.”
   Some attributes of the tribal claims were defined in the Adair litigation. Others will be determined by the state in the adjudication process. The state has exercised extreme caution to preserve the integrity of adjudication and avoid predetermining any person’s or entity’s water rights.
   Unfortunately, this attempt to chip away at the work of many Klamath County residents is unfounded. It has nothing to do with the agreement’s substance. The allegation is not relevant.
   The state did not participate to negotiate water rights. Project irrigators negotiated a settlement of adjudication contests with the Klamath Tribes and, should the agreement move forward, will submit that proposed settlement to the adjudicator for consideration. The tribes still have to prove their water rights. The state still has the obligation to determine the attributes of those rights. The state’s role was to protect the interests of the state and parties to the adjudication.
   My concern is not about raising legitimate issues or fostering meaningful discussion, rather I am concerned about motivation. If elected representatives don’t like the proposed agreement, then let’s hear a viable and politically justifiable alternative. The critics are awful quiet on that subject.
   Dave Solem
   Klamath Falls
Editor’s note:

Dave Solem is manager of the Klamath Irrigation District, one of the districts on the Klamath Reclamation Project.


KBC COMMENTS to Solem's letter:

Our point is:

corrected additions in red

The difference between most of the people at the settlement table and Senator Whitsett is, Whitsett IS our elected official, elected by more than 70% of the Klamath County voters. Most of our elected officials were not allowed to see the document along with the public who will be effected by their "agreement". There were 26 at the table, those being gov't agencies, 9 enviro groups, 4 tribes, 3 counties, and 2 farm reps, and most of those stakeholders have sued to shut down Klamath irrigators. Our elected leaders and their constituencies do have questions about this new non-elected government that will determine our fate, and the legality of making an agreement with no public input into its formation or window to adapt your product to public needs.

Their 'agreement' section 15.3.3.A i does state "Provisionally resolves and ends the contests filed by KPWU by recognizing the tribal water rights at the claimed amounts and with the priority date of time immemorial..." so yes, those at the table negotiated my water rights, without my permission, as a Project irrigator, with deeded rights, signed by a US President, for water appurtenant to our land forever. Our constitution demands public input in policies and law so these rights can not be taken from us. We are disappointed in any elected official who will not question any and everything effecting our rights and freedoms, including their new self-formed non-elected government body; this is America. No one dared question Hitler. We hope Whitsett and other officials do scrutinize every inch of their 'agreement' because that's their job. We hope their group comes to understand, the public does not want our leaders to blindly accept a new government and policy that they and we were not privy to without questions and research, even if their concerns prove to be unfounded. We voted for them to look after us. If the conclusion is, their 'agreement' is legal and beneficial to ALL equally, and we the people have input and accept it, they we will stand behind it. But give folks and their representatives a chance; they are doing their jobs.

About "raising legitimate issues or fostering meaningful discussion," again, most of our ELECTED reps were not allowed 2 1/2 years at the table with them and our adversaries to develop an agreement or contribute to theirs.

We (KBC) have been told the same story, either "status quo" or their "agreement". Solem does leave an offer of "a viable and politically justifiable alternative." Just maybe there are viable alternatives besides "status quo."

We have been called "bellyachers" by our district for asking questions. We have been told that even if we do not agree with their "agreement" that they've already decided to support it because we are not "informed enough to make an educated decision" and they can legally do it without our consent. We've been threatened with no water and unaffordable power like 'falling off a cliff' by Fish and Wildlife if we don't accept their 'agreement. And Tulelake Irrigation District's pact says we cannot undo or change their "agreement': "The Tulelake Irrigation District Board of Directors specifically will oppose any initiative or referendum to re-open negotiation or re-consideration of the Agreement terms that are not provided for, and/or accommodated by the Agreement." Any speakers or meetings regarding changes or other opinions have been blasted by settlement advocates and local media.

Mr. Solem, we appreciate your efforts, and ask for understanding and acceptance of concerns of your communities and elected reps. As you can see on KBC, dozens of citizens and some groups have come to us to allow their voices to be heard since they were not allowed at your table and are not welcomed to alter your plan.

Mr. Solem, what venue does your 'agreement' allow for our elected officials and communities to form an alternative without opposition from settlement advocates, while our district says our voice will not change their decision and they will oppose us?

Respectfully, KBC

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