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Klamath summit

a great idea: Get it scheduled

October 8, 2006, Herald and News editorial

 (KBC note: In July 2006, Congressman Greg Walden introduced the idea of a Klamath Summit. Since then the Chadwick/Klamath Congress has tried to merge with their dam-removal plans, and now Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is trying to join with Ca. Gov Schwarzenegger to accomplish his dam-removal agenda. Herald and News compliments Kulongoski's novel idea.)

The time is right for the governors of Oregon and California to meet and deal with Klamath River issues.

There's been recent action from several agencies dealing with the relicensing of the Klamath River dams. There's also been a drawing together of those who depend on the Klamath River. Many have come to realize that cooperation is the best solution to their problems. They're talking to each other.

When Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski came to Klamath Falls last week, he said he is working with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and hopes to have a “summit” in Klamath Falls on Klamath River issues. Included would be American Indian tribes, federal agencies and both states.

No date has been set, but when asked if it could happen within six months, Kulongoski said it was possible.

The major goal should be to ensure irrigation water for farmers in the Upper Klamath River and sufficient water for fish throughout the Basin.

The Oregon governor has taken an active interest in the Klamath River and in helping local water users.

He said he supports removing the four Klamath River dams operated by PacifiCorp, which is in the processing of trying to renew its license.

Dams blamed

The dams have been a major point of contention, blamed for poor salmon runs on the lower Klamath River. Irrigation use of some Klamath River water in the Upper Basin, including that for the Klamath Reclamation Project, also has been blamed for poor salmon production - unfairly so.

In recent days:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff dealing with relicensing the Klamath River dams recommended trucking salmon around the four dams - Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, and Copco 1 and 2 - to restore them to Upper Klamath River habitat.

An administrative law judge ruled that science is on the side of putting in fish ladders at the dams, rather than trucking fish around them, as PacifiCorp had asked to do in its relicensing effort. PacifiCorp said it intended to keep pressing for trucking the fish around the dams as it pursues the new license with FERC. It says the fish ladders would cost $250 million, and would reduce energy production.

The California State Coastal Conservancy said its studies showed that sediments released into the river by removing the dams would contain low levels of toxic materials.

Last summer, the president of PacifiCorp Energy, said, “We are not opposed to dam removal or other settlement opportunities as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights respected.”

That's not saying the dams will be taken out, but considering PacifiCorp didn't even include it as something to study when it submitted its application, it's a change. FERC ordered the study.

There's been a lot going on.

A major Upper Klamath Basin concern is the surety of water for farms in the Klamath Project and other irrigators. Water users need to come out of any process involving the Klamath River with a reliable water supply. They also should not be held responsible for trying to make salmon flourish in water that PacifiCorp says is unsuitable for them.

There are plenty of subjects to put on the table at a Klamath River summit -or even a couple of summits. The subject is complex and involves a water supply that was promised by the federal government to too many competing interests.

But settling issues this way, while difficult, is a lot better than a costly step-by-step slog through the court system. Schwarzenegger should join with Kulongoski and make the summit happen.

Editorial board
Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board. Its members include:
Publisher Heidi Wright.
Editor Steve Miller.
Day Editor Marcia McGonigle.
Opinion Editor Pat Bushey.
In addition, members of the public sit in on editorial board meetings as community advisors.


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