'Historic' Klamath Basin water agreement

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, March 5 2014 at 3:06 PM, Updated: Wed, March 5 2014 at 10:18 PM

A agreement on Upper Klamath Basin water issues has been reached that the Governor is calling 'historic'...but that agreement could still face some opposition.

The agreement in the ongoing fight over water in the Klamath Basin addresses off-project irrigation above Upper Klamath Lake.

Andrea Rabe of Rabe Consulting:  "It's an historic agreement between the Klamath Tribes and the irrigation community as a whole."

But Klamath County Commissioner and off-project irrigator Tom Mallams isn't so sure...

"It's kind of a 'lose-lose' situation for the irrigators, in many respects - and I think every irrigator is going to have to make up their own mind."

Garrett Roseberry of the Sprague River Water Resource Foundation notes that the 94-page agreement was released Wednesday...

"There's a water component to it, there's a restoration component to it, and an economic development package for the Klamath Tribe."

The water element would increase flows into Upper Klamath Lake through voluntary irrigation reductions.

The Klamath Tribes would get about 45 million dollars for economic development.

Garrett Roseberry adds that four hydroelectric dams would still be removed from the Klamath River...

"It is part of the package.  This agreement runs parallel to the KBRA (Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) and the KHSA." (Klamath Hydro Settlement Agreement)

The agreement now heads out for a series of public hearings in Bly, (Bly Fire Hall, March 10th, 4-6 p.m.) Sprague River, (Sprague River Community Center, March 12th, 4-6 p.m.) and Chiloquin.  (Chiloquin Community Center, March 13th, 4-6 p.m.)

The agreement must also be approved by a vote of Klamath Tribal members.

While the agreement may help to resolve water disputes, Andrea Rabe notes that it can't prevent a drought...

"So this year, whether we have a settlement or not, there probably will not be water for irrigation because it physically doesn't exist."

The agreement is now under a 30 day review period.

Backers hope to have the agreement ready for signing by the Governor, and Senators Wyden and Merkley in Klamath Falls on April 14th.

That signing would clear the way for federal legislation to fund the plan.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Lyle Ahrens

KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's.  He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.

Lyle's job history is quite colorful.  He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand.  A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer.  In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.

Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.  "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain.  Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".

When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.

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