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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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June 6, 2005         73rd Session, Issue 12

From Senator Doug Whitsett, District 28
Dear Friends,

The light at the end of the tunnel is coming into view and with some hard work and a concerted effort to set aside partisan games, the legislature should be able to finish our work relatively soon.  Even as things begin to wind down, I am pleased to announce significant progress on a some  very important bills. 

The Oregon House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 81 which has been amended to include Rate Shock protection for irrigators whose contract with PacifiCorp ends next year.   These irrigators face power rate increases of 2000 percent  if some mitigation is not provided.  I have worked diligently to provide this necessary safety net for these hardworking and responsible Oregonians. I am optimistic about passage of this legislation.

Many of you have received or heard abut a news release from the Oregon Natural Resource council about this legislation.  As you can likely imagine the falsehoods in the release far outnumbered the facts, but the release also implied that these irrigators have failed to practice good stewardship over this important natural resource

Those are utterly baseless assertions that I simply could not allow to go unanswered.  You can see my entire statement in response to the ONRC release below.  For now, just let me say  that the Klamath project is one of the most efficient Bureau of Reclamation Projects in the entire country and any implication of waste or misuse is laughable.

The other key bill that I have worked very hard on this session is Senate Bill 527 which has passed out of Committee and will receive a full vote on the Senate floor very soon.  This has been called the Oregon Fair Energy Act and will correct the obvious imbalance that currently exists between the state and local governments regarding energy siting.  The case of the COB plant siting in Klamath provides compelling evidence that local governments are completely without a voice when it comes to Department of Energy decisions regarding facility siting.

While this bill will not affect the COB plant, many of you know that the Supreme Court recently heard our case and is now considering the matter.  The purpose of this legislation is to save other communities from having to appeal the Supreme Court in order to be heard about energy sitingThe prospects for passage of Senate Bill 527 in the Senate look good.

Neither of these bills have been easy to navigate through the process, but I am pleased with the work we have done and hope to report on their passage soon.



Senator’s Statement in Response to ONRC News Release

Senator Whitsett Sets the Record Straight

Salem –On Thursday Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) responded to what he described as false statements laid out in a press release by the Oregon Natural Resources Council regarding Senate Bill 81.  An amendment to the bill which is supported by Whitsett provides rate mitigation to Klamath Irrigators who face rate increases of up to 2000 percent if action is not taken.

“I am willing and able to have a vigorous debate on the wisdom of certain policy options,” says Senator Whitsett.  “What I am not willing to do is sit quietly while the ONRC makes up facts and spreads falsehoods about the hardworking men and women of the Klamath Basin who make their livelihood in agriculture.”

The following is a list of the accusations made by the ONRC as well as the actual facts of the situation in the Klamath Basin. 

  • Fallacy: Fish Kills have a direct relationship to the Klamath Farmers.
  • Truth: National Academy of Sciences determination says the two are unrelated.
  • Fallacy: This is an “antiquated electric power subsidy.”
  • Truth: This is a power contract based on mutual benefits between the Basin farmers and Pacific Power last negotiated in 1956. There would be less water flowing down the Klamath River or behind the dams seasonally if BOR and farmers hadn’t developed the Klamath project.
  • Fallacy: the Klamath Project and irrigators of the Basin are “wasting” water and can become more efficient.
  • Truth:  The Klamath Project irrigators are 97% efficient at the present time, as determined by studies by Cal Tech. It is one of the single most efficient irrigation systems in the US
  • Fallacy: Oregon rate payers will subsidize Klamath Farmers.
  • Truth:  Oregon electric rate payers have been benefiting from, and will continue to benefit from cheap power rates due to the water provided for in stream flows down the Klamath.  Without the water provided by the Klamath irrigators to these hydro electric dams to operate, power would be more expensive and less available to the general public.
  • Fallacy: This is a “secret tax” on Oregon families.
  • Truth:  This is a negotiated contract of 99 years duration and is in the public record. It is not secret.
  • Fallacy: SB 81 is a raw deal for the environment.
  • Truth: SB 81 provides continuing unheralded benefits for the environment through the National Wildlife Refuges and for the myriad of wildlife existing in the irrigated areas of the Basin.  In 2001, when irrigation was cut off to the Basin, the impact on wildlife was profoundly devastating. This is a high desert area and without the irrigation water provided, hundreds of species will suffer irreparable harm.
  • Fallacy: SB 81 is unfair.
  • Truth: SB 81 is fair to PPL rate payers, by providing more and cheaper power                             than if no water flowed down the Klamath. It is fair because it is a negotiated legal contract. It is fair because it provides adequate water for wildlife. It is fair because it is publicly disclosed. It is fair because the Klamath irrigators have utilized a maximum efficiency of 97% water usage in their system and cannot improve the system, according to the best scientific analysis in the world.

You can view the ONRC release at the following site: http://www.onrc.org/alerts/221.klamath.html

Please Contact or Visit us in Salem

Senator Doug Whitsett
Party: R  District: 28
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1728
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE., S-302, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett





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