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MailTribune.com
  • Positive signs

    There appears to be strong agreement to tackle Klamath Basin's water crisis
  • Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
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  • Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
    At least, we don't think they did. If somebody did say it, he or she doesn't know much about the Klamath Basin's complex water problems, their history, the agreements signed, the promises made, the promises broken, and the costs of setting things as right as can be done in circumstances that include the fact that there simply isn't enough water to satisfy everyone.
    Groups representing those needs have been meeting in a process that originally was scheduled to end last week, but has been extended to Oct. 10, with difficult issues yet to resolve, including water allocations, the price of electricity for irrigators and the cost of an overall agreement.
    Power to pump water is a major cost for Basin irrigators and has been increasing rapidly since the end of a 50-year agreement with Pacific Power that kept them low.
    Yet, there are positive signs.
    There's a strong effort in both the federal and state levels of government to get a workable agreement in place that would at least bring greater certainty to Basin water users.
    How long the political stars will stay aligned in a way that favors strong governmental cooperation with the effort is hard to say. But even with that support, the federal government wants the probable cost of an overall agreement, including restoration projects, to be reduced further.
    Projected costs over a 10-year period started at about $1 billion, dropped to $800 million, and are now down to about $500 million which includes some work already completed or under way.
    Participants in the discussions so far appear genuinely pleased with the efforts to include a full range of those heavily affected by how the Basin's water is distributed, including some who were not active participants in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement process. The KBRA was the first major attempt at an overall settlement but shows no sign of moving forward in Congress, though parts are being implemented on a piecemeal basis.
    Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who deserves credit for his efforts, told those at last week's meeting that, "We will not get a perfect solution to this. Nobody gets everything they want; nobody gets everything they think they deserve. The question is, do the parties get what they need?" Wyden referred to a "handful" of issues remaining. They're remaining, of course, because they're the toughest ones. But the spirit and the resolve seem right, along with the recognition this may be the last best opportunity to put something together that has broad support.
    Easy? No, but nobody said it would be.
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