Another Viewpoint on Klamath Deals
By Felice Pace, Capitol Press Opinion
March 23, 2009
Mateusz Perkowski's report "Multitude of issues meet at Klamath" in the Feb. 13 edition of Capitol Press contained several errors and omissions.
There is currently no "litigation over water rights" as reported in the article. Closed-door negotiations among the Klamath Water Users Association and other stakeholders have focused on the amount of water required in streams and lakes to provide for endangered salmon and suckers. KWUA has negotiated a first-in-line allocation for irrigators within the Klamath Project, reductions in irrigation outside the Klamath Project and a reduced allocation of water for salmon. Some of us think this is neither fair nor sustainable.
The article claims that the $985 million in new subsidies which KWUA and its collaborators have negotiated would come from "public and non-governmental funding." Actually the new subsidies would all be placed on the backs of the taxpayers and would require federal legislation to appropriate the funds.
The article reported that removal of four Klamath River Dams would be completed by 2020. Actually the "Agreement in Principle" on the dams is not an agreement to remove them but only to make a decision on what to do with the dams by 2012. If dam removal is selected, removal would begin in 2020 and not be "completed by 2020" as reported in the article. Readers should also know that there is a fifth dam - Keno - which is not being looked at for removal but is proposed for transfer to the Bureau of Reclamation.
You reported that future closed-door negotiations would address "how irrigation and in stream water needs would be balanced in the event of a drought." It is already clear, however, that under the proposed agreement water for fish during droughts would have to be purchased from irrigators who would be given first call on Klamath water via proposed federal legislation. Taxpayers buying water so fish can survive is not sustainable and a terrible precedent.
The article quoted KWUA's Greg Addington, who claimed that settlement of Klamath water issues would "never happen if it was a wide open (i.e. public) process." However, the same issue of the Capital Press reported on a stakeholder process in Idaho which tackled similarly difficult water issues but did all its work in public. The Idaho stakeholder plan will now go to the Idaho legislature; it includes "water right buyouts." Here in the Klamath KWUA steadfastly opposes buyouts within the Klamath Project even when there are willing sellers. That is one reason the proposed Klamath water deal is neither fair nor sustainable.
The article gives the impression that the separate water and dam deals depend on one another. This is not the case. A dam removal deal does not require federal legislation; the subsidies and water allocations in the water deal, however, can only be accomplished via federal legislation.
Secret processes breed mischief and the proposed Klamath dam and water deals are chock full of mischief. The Capital Press should provide its readers with balanced reporting - not a presentation of one organization's views; that sort of boosterism belongs on the opinion pages.
Felice Pace, Klamath, Calif.
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