Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Hundreds of Klamath farmers' and ranchers' at public meeting boycotted by Klamath Water Users Association and Klamath County Commissioners concerning Klamath settlement agreement, 11/11/09, Notes by KBC News.
300 people came, 81 spoke, and additional 40 wrote comments. Not even one person supported either agreement. Approximately 50 attendees were from the Klamath Project, 50 local concerned citizens, 5 from downriver, and 200 Off-Project.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for copies of 4 hour chaptered DVD of entire speeches, or 12 minute edited version.
Water Users Association and Klamath County Commissioners
boycotted the public input meeting on the KBRA/Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and dam removal.
Elected public servants Senator Whitsett and reps Garrard and Gilman invited KWUA, KCC and the public to this open meeting. The officials did not speak; they came to listen to their constituency.
Many had read this 'agreement' and told how it would destroy their livelihoods, their property value, and their water rights. Many suggested solutions. Many who came were settlers, veterans, and young adults with families.
"In 2001 we marched with you (off-Project irrigators), we contacted representatives, we hired attorneys..." said Bruce Topham, off-Project Sprague River rancher. He said they paid for supporting a power rate shock law that they shared the benefits with on and off Project ratepayers. He said they asked for nothing, and now in their crisis that will take all their water, they're locked out of backroom secret deals on how to divide their water rights among others.
Resource Conservancy, representing over 100,000 acres off-Project, was and still is denied a seat at the negotiation table. The group's president Roger Nicholson said the KBRA includes no water storage. He said in the KBRA the USFW refuges expand their water rights from 18,000 acre feet to 85,000 acre feet of water. He has a 1883 water right. The KBRA demands the off-Project water with no representation from the decades-old group and gives their water to someone else.
He noted that the people at the negotiation table have agreed in the KBRA that if there is any water storage developed, the water must not be used for irrigation but only sent straight to the ocean for demands of Indians, government agencies and environmentalists. There is no guarantee of an affordable power contract, no relief from the Endangered Species Act, and no flood control. The people were discouraged and offended that their county commissioners and Klamath Water Users did not want to hear their concerns and their ideas for solutions.
In yesterday's Herald and News KWUA director Greg Addington's reason for not listening to the public was “You can’t do it in a three-minute sound bite, which is what they’re doing.”
Although KWUA, nine environmental groups, government agencies, four indian tribes, and two farm groups have been meeting for several years in closed-door negotiations creating new laws and mandates, water rights, and an unelected government for the Klamath River Basin, they have only released one official document for public review in January 2008. They have spent millions of dollars of their constituencies and taxpayers on strategizing, lobbying, and creating legislation to make this agreement the new law of the land, including appropriating money by the ratepayers and taxpayers to pay for this multi-billion dollar scheme.
One retired rancher, a public servant for 50 years, said he worked to preserve agriculture and livestock interests, and there never was a time he didn't answer a call or help someone. Now the government agencies have the most seats at the negotiation table and they don't answer calls or letters; no one is accountable. "It breaks my heart."
Although dam removal isn't in Klamath ranchers' back yards, everyone who spoke opposed dam removal. They are concerned with the current economy that raising taxes and power rates to destroy clean hydropower will effect every person negatively, and they had compassion for those who will lose their lakes and property values.
Tom Mallams, president of off-Project power group, is allowed at the secret negotiations only to discuss power. He said the KBRA group is no longer consensus so the tribes, environmental groups and government agencies are in the majority. He said no alternative solutions to dam removal were allowed at the meetings; nothing else could be discussed. He showed almost 2000 petitions of people from the Karuk tribe, Modoc, Siskiyou and Klamath Counties opposing the KBRA.
The vice President of Oregon Cattlemen's Association said the upper basin has already had to retire from ag over 100,000 acres and this demands 30,000 more acre feet of water to be retired. Land retirement is destroying Klamath's cattle industry, which is one of the most prominent in the nation.
Elders who live on the Klamath River urged not to take out the dams; they remember the floods and why the dams were built, and who paid for them.
Several people expressed dismay that environmentalist and government agency demanded that dams must be removed with no other option allowed, and with no science to back the KBRA mandate. Also, in 2002 the National Academy of Science said that suckers don't need deep water and salmon don't need higher than historic flows, but these findings are being ignored in the KBRA.
Jeff Woodwick, chairman of the Klamath Republican Central Committee, was upset that key stakeholders, ratepayers, tax payers, and off project, have no seat at the table and the extreme environmentalist agenda of breaching dams is happening in secret meetings.
Tony Halda said that it took $13 million to remove the small Chiloquin dam which is like a wier, so it will probably take $2 billion to destroy four hydroelectric dams plus people will lose the hydropower.
Rebecca Victorine, a Project irrigator from Malin, said their deed states they have water rights attached to their land forever, which makes them stakeholders, but they aren't allowed to speak at negotiations. She said the environmentalists allowed to continue their lawsuits are domestic terrorists. They took irrigation water with no research. 89% of the people oppose the 'agreement,' so it should not go on. "We want a voice." There is no good science on dam removal.
Vice Chair of the Shasta Indian Nation explained that all the dams are in Shasta territory, however they are denied a seat at the negotiation table and other tribes are negotiating to take out the dams. She said there will be flooding, sediment, and she said there are solutions for making renewable energy from algae. "We make peace and want to work together." She said they are all equal and they like to eat so they support agriculture. She received a standing ovation.
The farmers and ranchers said they are not "complainers," "nonnegotiable," "detractors," as accused by the secret negotiators. They just want a voice and a seat at the table when their livelihoods and their children's livelihoods are at stake. They said they are not being represented at the table, and that it should not be in secret.
All the speakers thanked Senator Whitsett and Reps Garrard and Gillman for sponsoring the event to hear their voices. They said this was the first that their opinions and ideas had been welcomed regarding the KBRA that will destroy their livelihoods. Susan Topham said "we're told we don't deserve a seat at the table. The key KBRA people won't come to hear us. The robbers don't usually want to hear the victims...the government is supposed to represent all of us, not just a select few."
Page Updated: Wednesday September 29, 2010 02:18 AM Pacific
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