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Leaders: Consider the human factor

by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 2/7/10
MEDFORD — When the Klamath River Basin Science Conference opened Tuesday, a series of speakers implored scientists doing river studies to report findings in language that nonscientists can understand, to be transparent and, most of all, to realize people living in the upper and lower basins will be impacted.

When the conference closed Friday, scientists said they heard the message.

“The human dimension has come up again and again,” said Dr. Leslie Dierauf, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northwest regional executive, who conceived and oversaw organization of the four-day conference. “The social needs and the social dynamics go hand-in-hand with the health of the river.”

In conversations and at conference programs involving 300-plus scientists, Dierauf and others said a major message was to involve people living in areas impacted by the river and its tributaries in ongoing and future studies.

The human factor

Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott, Siskiyou County Supervisor Jim Cook and Humboldt County Supervisor Jill Duffy each urged scientists studying the future of the Klamath River Basin to consider the human factor.

“Either we learn to work together, or I warn you, we will destroy each other,” Elliott said.

Of the proposed removal of four Klamath River dams, which Siskiyou supervisors have unanimously opposed, Cook asked, “Prove that’s the best for the river and prove that’s the best for the people of the United States. Don’t do it because it feels good.”

“We need to have confidence in the products that are being produced,” Duffy said, echoing concerns by Cook and Elliott that county governments lack the staff and budget to analyze and interpret scientific data.

Duffy urged scientists to “talk about what we know and how we can augment information and move forward. When you say you don’t know, it undermines confidence.”

Common goals

Elliott said trust and collaborative relationships between previously hostile groups were established during negotiations for the Klamath Basin Restoration and Klamath Hydropower Settlement agreements, noting, “We’ve carved out a pseudo state with common goals.”

Regardless of whether the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement are approved, Dierauf said studies aimed on understanding, targeting and solving problems along the Klamath River Basin are needed.

“We have to plan now, to get ready now,” Dierauf said. “Let’s not wait for the agreements.”
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