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Klamath water summit on hold
No date will be set until talks with agencies are done

Lee Juillerat,  February 9, 2007, Capital Press

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Klamath Basin water issues will be discussed by the governors of Oregon and California, but it's not known where or when.

Spokesmen for Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said no date for the long-anticipated Klamath Water Summit will be scheduled until ongoing discussions involving representatives from 28 agencies representing irrigators, fishermen, American Indian tribes, federal and state agencies and others are completed.

Spokesmen for the Klamath Water Users Association said discussions are progressing but gave no indications on how the talks are progressing.

The summit on Klamath Basin water issues remains a high priority, the governors' spokesmen said.

Kulongoski proposed the summit last fall during his re-election campaign.

"Any successful summit will depend on the support and endorsement of the parties in negotiations," said Jake Weigler, Kulongoski's spokesman.

Talks involving concerned parties began in December and have been ongoing on a regular basis, according to Weigler and Sandy Cooney, spokesman for the California Resources Agency.

"It's really being driven by conversations by the 28 settlement parties," Cooney said. "We're hopeful there's going to be a good outcome. We'll have a lot to say once these conversations conclude."

Neither Cooney nor Weigler would estimate when the summit would be held, although Weigler said the goal is "in the next few months."

The summit will focus on several controversial issues involving the Klamath River Basin, which begins near Klamath Falls, Ore., meanders through Oregon and far northern California and reaches the Pacific Ocean at Klamath, Calif.

Issues include fisheries, water quality and the status of existing dams that prevent salmon from reaching the Upper Klamath Basin.

The region gained a high national profile in 2001 when federal agencies turned off irrigation water to Klamath Basin water users to provide water for sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake. A fish die-out was also blamed on low water flows.

In 2006, low river runs prevented commercial fishermen from fishing for coho salmon. A debate over removing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River is also a key issue in hearings on renewing their licenses. The dams prevent salmon from traveling to historic regions and, opponents claim, harm water quality.

The summit is envisioned as a way to improve dialogue among local, state and federal officials and other stakeholders. It was originally scheduled in December but postponed at the request of stakeholders.

"The governor is still committed to having this take place in the Klamath Basin on the Oregon side of the border," Weigler said.

Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the discussions are progressing but that a settlement is yet to be reached. Once that is secured, a date will be set for the summit, tentatively in February.
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