Klamath task force meets on water woes, with no agreement

Aug 04, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Klamath task force meets on water woes, with no agreement By The Associated Press

KLAMATH FALLS — Amid drought and major fires, a task force trying to pick its way through the Klamath Basin's long water struggles has met again, with some contention and no resolution.

The task force was put together after Sen. Ron Wyden said local agreements reached after an irrigation shut-off in 2001 were too expensive to get through Congress.

The group includes representatives from the parties with an interest in the basin's water: farmers, ranchers, conservationists, tribal members, government agencies and power utilities.

They have two more meetings before a September deadline to make recommendations to Wyden.

Richard Whitman, natural resources adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, fielded questions about the agreement over water, fish and farming reached as a result of an irrigation water shut-off in 2001.

After John Menke of Scott Valley, Calif., called the agreement the “greatest rip-off to taxpayers ever designed," tribal members defended their river ceremonies and the importance of restoring salmon habitat on the Klamath River.

He pointed to the Klamath Reclamation Project that straddles the Oregon-California border.

“The river is degraded because of a federal water project a hundred and some miles upriver," said Mike Orcutt, director of the Hoopa Valley tribe's fisheries department.

Drought this year has again led to an irrigation water shut-off, and a rancher whose irrigation water ended in June pleaded for conciliation.

“Let's not meet this way for the next 15 years," said Becky Hyde, a representative for the Upper Klamath Water Users Association. “We can continue to eat each other alive, or we can choose something different. Let's choose something different."

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