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No free lunch in Klamath deal

Capital Press Letter December 29, 2011 by Edward Bartell, Orovada, Nevada

Also titled Endless negotiations won't accomplish much in the Herald and News.

I am responding to an inaccurate guest opinion piece by Cheri Bacchi Little, about the proposed order in the Klamath adjudication. Unfortunately some people, including Little, apparently believed in free lunch and failed to file legal challenges to Klamath Tribal in-stream claims. Instead they left other people with the bill, trying to challenge these claims.

If everybody would have followed the direction of the free lunch crowd, these claims would have already been granted and enforced since the last several years have been dedicated to hearings challenging these claims.

Despite inaccurate statements to the contrary, litigation has resulted in many claims being reduced in excess of 50 percent.

These people have now decided the solution to the problems is negotiation. They have a unique negotiation strategy; refuse to participate in litigation, so they have no chance of prevailing in court; agree to support the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which supports granting the tribes what they want up front, (dam removal, 92,000 acres of deeded land, millions in fishery money, etc.), thereby surrendering potential leverage, without guaranteed protection from tribal in-stream claims.

They then vigorously attack their neighbors who are opposing tribal claims. I can easily understand why the tribes love negotiating with these people. But I would not hold my breath for a successful outcome.

My experience is that the Klamath Tribes are not willing to make meaningful claim reductions, but instead keep irrigators in endless negotiations. When I was in Klamath County, upper basin leaders spent over a decade trying to settle these claims. Two separate written settlement concepts were reached, which tribal leaders approved. These settlement concepts would have provided protections for irrigators.

Unfortunately though, when push came to shove we could never get to the next stage of actually getting them to modify their claims.

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