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DEQ standards for Klamath River system are unreasonable
Don’t give in ‘without a hell of a fight to get the jackasses in Salem to back off.’ - Ernie Palmer,  H&N editorial board member 

Herald and News 3/25/10 editorial

   Let your voice be heard
   Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is taking comments on the new total maximum daily load standards until April 12 (officials indicated that they might extend that deadline). Send comments to: Steve Kirk, DEQ Eastern Region - Bend Office, 475 NE Bellevue Drive, Suite 110, Bend, OR 97701; e-mail kirk.steve@ deq.state.or.us; or fax to 541-388-8283.
   DEQ standards for Klamath River system are unreasonable
   Discharged water would be cleaner than water already in the lake, river system
   Editor’s note: This week, we asked members of our editorial board to discuss their highest priority local issues. We’re also asking   heraldandnews.com   readers to participate — go to the survey box down the left side of the home page to take part.
   How about that TMDL? It stands for total maximum daily load and, simply stated, it’s a set of restrictions on what entities such as the city of Klamath Falls can discharge into the Klamath River system. New standards proposed by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality are out and the city of Klamath Falls has started wrestling with the proposal. South Suburban Sanitary District and others will also be faced with dealing, somehow, with them. Pretty much anyone, up and down the river, discharging treated wastewater will be affected, including agriculture.
   Frivolous use of tax dollars
   What’s got us all flustered is that the standards would have us discharging water that is much cleaner than the water already in the river and lake systems. It sure looks, on its face, like it would be a frivolous use of tax dollars to spend the several fortunes necessary to treat wastewater up to those new standards.  
   Our editorial board, generally, is miffed by it.
   Why is it so important? We’re talking about serious cash being taken from the community to address infrastructure needed only because of unreasonable standards. The money could be better spent in other community investments, or just as well left with consumers.
   Herald and News editorial board member Ernie Palmer is incensed. It makes sense, he says, and is responsible for us to discharge water back into the system that’s at least as clean as what Mother Nature produces — maybe even a little cleaner. But it makes no sense to purify water to this extreme.
   Exhibiting ‘absolute idiocy’
   “This is state and federal government at its best at exhibiting its absolute idiocy,” Palmer rants. He’s probably justified in ranting just a bit. It does seem fairly outrageous. What’s the return on investing tens of millions of dollars and raising utility rates in a community that ekes out a living like we do? None, really.  
   In fact, the real return, we fear, would be a negative one: it would further incense a citizenry already overly suspicious of environmental and conservation causes and regulations. You can make progress on clean-ups by using chains and lashes, but you lose any semblance of goodwill — that’s a much bigger loss than any gain to the river system by imposing such harsh standards.
   What to do? “Just say ‘no,’ ” board members say.
   But really, what do you do? Play hardball, they say. Don’t give in “without a hell of a fight to get the jackasses in Salem to back off.” Harsh words, but, as Palmer adds, something as harsh as the proposed TMDL brings out the worst in people. There ought to be some room for negotiation and consensus building — all of the environment would benefit more from that.
   Editorial board member Steve Harper adds that there are still other alternatives to be explored. Utilizing wetlands to mitigate waste should be more fully explored — it could be cheaper and more effective. The city (and any of the other entities that are or will be affected) shouldn’t go down easy on this one.  
   Community priorities
   Later this week, the editorial board discusses other priorities, including water adjudication, an ill-advised law enforcement levy, and renewal of the downtown.
   To pitch in your top community priorities, go to   heraldandnews.com   and find the survey box on the bottom left of the home page. So far, respondents are talking about a variety of issues. Klamath Falls residents are interested in: fixing bad roads; updating sewer and water systems and other utilities; having a less cardependent community; poverty, child abuse and neglect; more shopping; more jobs.
   Editor Steve Miller wrote today’s editorial.
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              Page Updated: Saturday March 27, 2010 12:54 AM  Pacific

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