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Off-Project Water Users call cops on Kandra at private board meeting

Board works to find water and power solutions for Off-Project farmers and ranchers

by KBC News 3/24/09

< photo Steve Kandra, Klamath Water Users Association board member

When the Klamath Off-Project Water Users Board of Directors planned a private board meeting in Merrill to discuss the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement/KBRA with some invited guests, they didn't anticipate having to call the cops.

"No one is going to drag Steve Kandra out of a building in Merrill," said uninvited Klamath Water User Kandra when asked by several Off-Project board members to leave. Kandra became angry and began asking people he knew if they wanted him to leave. He complained that an elected official was there, being Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett.

Whitsett, also an OP irrigator, was invited and attended to listen to his constituents concerns and answer any questions.

The board meeting was not publicized, and was not public, however Kandra refused to leave.

KWUA has several private meetings weekly with agencies, tribes, reps, and some OP ranchers who agree with them, and this OP board said they do not show up uninvited in large numbers at KWUA board meetings.

Several uninvited members of Klamath Water Users Association/KWUA came, and four of the five directors on the Klamath Water and Power Agency/KWAPA board including their interim director. The sheriffs showed up. Some OP board members, and sheriffs, decided to go ahead with the meeting as long as the "uninvited" guests did not cause any problems.

< The meeting

The original purpose of the meeting was for OP irrigators to meet with amiable Project irrigators, their neighbors, and try to work together to find solutions on water certainty and affordable power rates; to create a workable plan. Community members have been left out of the settlement negotiations, and many do not like what they hear.

< Some Klamath Off-Project Water Users Board of Directors

The reason the KWUA board was not invited is because OP irrigators have asked KWUA to renegotiate the KBRA so it would be fair, but the Klamath Tribes and KWUA refused to allow them back in to negotiate their water and power.  KWUA in Feb 2008 signed a resolution that states "the associationís board of directors would support, defend and promote the agreement in its current form." It also says the associationís board would oppose any attempt to reopen settlement negotiations.

Mallams said, "We have asked for facilitated meetings with the County Commissioners and open meetings with the Klamath County Natural Resource Advisory Board forum. The KWUA, Klamath Tribes, Pacific Corp and the Upper Klamath Water Users, Becky Hyde and Carl Scronce's new group, continue to refuse to meet with us." Hyde is a business partner with Sustainable NW and the Klamath Tribes. Just last week KWUA met with two commissioners and Hyde but they did not invite OP irrigators to attend. HERE for AUDIO.

Off-Project irrigators have previously given up 98,000 acres of ag land, which government agencies and the Nature Conservancy turned into wetlands. The massive amount of warm shallow water acquired in the guise of water storage, water quality, and helping endangered suckers, didn't help water quality, quantity, or suckers either. Of the 50,000 acres remaining of land irrigated with surface water, the KBRA demands 30,000 acre feet of water to be permanently retired.

Mallams said, "It isn't 30,000 acre feet of paper water rights, it is 30,000 acre feet of measured increase of inflow into Klamath Lake, with no credit of the 98,000 acres of land already taken out of production. Taking irrigated land out of production and putting much of it into wet lands actually reduces inflow into Klamath Lake, so when the initial 30,000 acre ft. would be idled and the needed increase of flows into Klamath Lake is not met, the KBRA says that more land will be idled by "other means" until the needed increase is met, which means all of the surface water lands would be idled."

Mallams said to stay somewhat whole, they initially agreed to giving up a set block of 30,000 acre feet of water with a cap on it, along with some assurance of affordable power. That was before the KBRA format was changed by the other stakeholders, and they were told the dams had to come out, and the Klamath Tribes would be given the 92,000 acre Mazama Tree farm which the tribe previously sold. The other KBRA stakeholders consisting of Tribes, environmental groups, and Klamath Project irrigators, also changed the KBRA meeting format from consensus to non-consensus votes, so OP was overruled in trying to build an agreement that works for them.

He has never had his water shut off like Project irrigators in 2001, so Mallams said he doesn't know what that would be like. He came to support them in '01, but OP was still able to irrigate. He said he understands how desperate they are to get a block of water they can count on and 3-cent power. He said he would like to see the agreement to be fair so OP could have water and power certainty without having to lose most of their water. Project irrigators in the KBRA are willing to help them get a better power rate if the Off-Project agree to all the terms of the agreement. Discussion followed that they would have no need for the power rate if they have no water.

The OP power rate is tied to the Klamath hydro dams, so it would defeat their ability to use power to irrigate if the dams are removed.

Mallams said he was told by a Tribal member after a settlement meeting, "Sign this! Get this done! There's a big pot of money."

"That's not the way I was raised," Mallams said. "I can't stomach that. It's blackmail and extortion."

One Project farmer asked why he should care if the dams come out or if OP gets more water or a power rate.

Linda Long, OP irrigator, said she would be willing to give up the 30,000 acre-feet, but said there are no benefits in the agreement for them. 

A farmer stated that Siskiyou County laid out five proposals for solutions, but the KBRA stakeholder group will talk about no other solutions besides their demand of dam removal, no Long Lake water storage mandate, and no fish passage or other alternatives to dam removal.

Andrea Rabe, an OP rancher, is a member of the Resource Conservancy. Their group represents 150,000 acres of Off-Project land, but the KBRA stakeholders won't allow them a seat at the negotiation table.

"I understand it's desperate down here. This agreement provides Project water so we have no water. It's not equitable," said Rabe.

Off-Project and On-Project irrigator John Wells asked if, in the agreement, they can get 3-cent power?

KWAPA president Ed Bair said they believe it's possible to get there but not guaranteed.

Wells said this is a pretty small little valley if we can't be viable. This being divided, I don't think it's good. He said OP will be hurt with an unaffordable power rate.

The OP board and invited guests were willing to be part of a solution that works for all of the communities.

Jim Ottoman from Klamath Falls served on the Oregon DEQ/Dept. of Environmental Quality Water Policy Advisory Board and was a member of the Oregon State Water Board. He said there are many reasons to keep the dams; sediment is a worry. He said people could sue against removal.

Rabe said, "We offered the 30,000 acre-feet to permanently retire land if we had assurances like you want." She said Michael Bogart from Interior told the Klamath Tribe not to negotiate with their group. He said, "You (OP) guys better come up with a plan 'B,' and you better figure out how to do it if you lose your power rate." So we asked to meet with Bogart and he asked what we needed. We said we want to invest in renewables. He said "good luck getting that money."

Kandra said, "We got a plan. Pay attention and participate. You guys need to make a decision. We're offering, you can participate or you can fight it."

Rabe said to the Project guys, the government will give you money with these folks; it's resolved. You can do it Project-wide. She said the KBRA forces each OP person to do a restoration plan individually whereas the Project can do it as a group. "We've asked for access to affordable power. We don't have the same collective bargaining power."

The Project irrigators say they believe the KBRA keeps the participants from suing each other, although the KBRA Draft 11 document specifies how to sue each other with a dispute resolution committee. Someone asked how they will keep the tribes and environmental groups that aren't in the settlement negotiations from suing them. Kandra responded that he thinks all the tribes and environmental groups within the settlement group will all stick together; "All the tribes and environmental groups will be with us."

Mallams said that three KBRA "stakeholders" filed a lawsuit February 4, 2009 against the California State Water Control Board, Lawsuit Aims to Protect Northern California Salmon Habitat. He believes their indirect lawsuit could shut down the Klamath Project. Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen/PCFFA, North Coast Environmental Center, Klamath Riverkeeper (Environmental activist Craig Tucker, Karuk Spokesman, was a founder of Klamath Riverkeeper), are among Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement stakeholders suing the Calif. Water Quality Control Board to force the farmers to purify the naturally nutrient-laden water going into the Klamath River. Court petition HERE. KBRA stakeholder PCFFA blames the current water resource users: "These (fish) losses are directly related to widespread freshwater habitat destruction and impairment of water quality from human activities such as dam construction, water diversions, agriculture, logging, mining, and grazing."

Recently KWUA board member Bob Gasser called Mallams and said he hoped the OP group could work together with the Project guys. Mallams agreed, and hopes KWUA will change it's stance on closing further KBRA negations to this Off-Project group.

 

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