Irrigators review water agreement final draft
By Ty Beaver
Herald & News
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement still leaves the Klamath Reclamation Project vulnerable to water shortages in an extreme drought situation, attorney Paul Simmons told irrigators.
The document also doesn’t exempt the Project from the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, said Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association.
But despite those issues, Addington and Simmons told irrigators at a public meeting Thursday that the water agreement represents a better future for the Project. The two cited increased water supply stability, affordable power and improved relations with other stakeholders.
"The goal of the agreement is to be way better off than without the agreement,” Simmons said.
About 100 people attended the public meeting arranged by Klamath Water Users Association in the auditorium at Oregon Institute of Technology. The association’s board of directors, as one of the stakeholders of the agreement, will vote whether to support or reject the agreement before Feb. 9, after the irrigation districts it represents notify it of their decisions.
Simmons and Addington reviewed the final draft of the restoration agreement, pointing out what changed and what did not since a draft was released to the public in early 2008.
Changes include some of the timeframes in the document, as well as how provisions dealing with power and water will be carried out. However, those changes won’t impact how much water the Project would be able to use out of Upper Klamath Lake, regulatory assurances or a settlement with tribal groups.
One of the changed provisions is the lack of a set power rate for irrigators on and off the Project. The document originally had a goal of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour delivered.
Addington said the rate wasn’t included in the final document so it wouldn’t become a political target in Congress. The rate would be at or below the average for other irrigator communities in the Pacific Northwest.
"We think we can justify pretty easily the 3 cent, 3.5 cent range,” he said.
Simmons added that while the Project would still have limited diversions from Upper Klamath Lake — 330,000 acre-feet in dry years to 385,000 acre-feet in the wettest years — those limits wouldn’t be imposed until the restoration agreement is fully funded, certain regulatory protections are in place and settlements with tribal groups are in place; all of which are unlikely to happen before 2020.
The Project would be responsible for water supply issues until that time.
"It’s not going to happen overnight,” Addington said.
By TY BEAVER
H&N Staff Writer
Steve Kandra wanted to know how the Klamath Reclamation Project would make up for water demand beyond what was available under the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Bill Kennedy wanted to know about the different groups created to implement the document would be and how irrigators would be represented.
Lynn Long wanted an assurance that all the groups that sign the restoration agreement will honor it and not force irrigators to again invest in expensive litigation to enforce it. Another irrigator asked whether irrigation districts should poll or survey their irrigators about whether to sign the restoration agreement.
"We’re not just putting in a culvert, this is a pretty big deal,” the Klamath Basin irrigator said.
Those were just some concerns irrigators on and off the Project raised during a public meeting on the restoration agreement Thursday at Oregon Institute of Technology.
Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, told Kandra the Project would meet water demands beyond the supply from Upper Klamath Lake by paying irrigators a one-time payment to use groundwater resources or idle their land.
Those arrangements would be made by the Klamath Water and Power Agency, which would be made up of irrigation district representatives, said Hollie Cannon, the water and power agency’s executive director.
Addington told Kennedy that the restoration agreement would create three groups — the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council, the Klamath Basin Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Team.
The coordinating council and advisory committee would include the same individuals. Members of both groups would be stakeholders who sign the restoration agreement, which would potentially include Klamath Water Users Association and the Klamath Water and Power Agency.
Addington said he couldn’t say there wouldn’t be issues with some of the stakeholders down the road with the restoration agreement.
"I think that’s why the document is as big and thick and complex as it is,” he said.
He also said he couldn’t say whether irrigation districts should survey their membership for a stance on the restoration agreement, adding that that is the decision of the irrigation district’s board of directors.