Governor, Senators Applaud Klamath Task Force

Governor Kitzhaber, Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor are celebrating an agreement tonight they claim will deliver water to parched farms in the Klamath Basin.

But, there are still plenty of questions…

Senator Ron Wyden notes that the agreement promises more certainly of water for farmers…

“Through voluntary measures in areas above the Upper Klamath Lake. This is done through the sale of water rights by willing owners.”

But – the agreement doesn’t identify which sellers are willing to give up ranching.

Getting cheaper power rates for farmers is another challenge.

Wyden says he can help to clear some of the federal red tape…but it’s unclear how low those rates can be cut, or what cost will be acceptable.

The task force was also charged with cutting costs of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, or KBRA, by up to a third.

Some of that financial burden will now fall to the state…

But Governor John Kitzhaber believes he can help…

“This is a remarkable testament to the good will and commitment of the people of this region, and the State of Oregon is going to back this up.”

While questions may remain, Senator Jeff Merkley says the agreement represents a lot of hard work by a diverse group…

“If the stakeholders can do that, I want to do everything that I possibly can to help back that up.”

And while the agreement may not solve all the water problems, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor notes that it may have laid a foundation for future dialog…

“I think meaningful progress is what we’re trying to achieve, and long term solutions on the horizon are worth this effort.”

The draft report by the Klamath River Basin Task Force will now undergo a review period.

Senator Ron Wyden hopes to introduce legislation based on the group’s recommendations in mid-January.

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