Off-project water users suggest solutions to Klamath water problems

Klamath Falls, Ore. – An advisor to the Secretary of the Interior meets with off-project water users in Klamath Falls.

Alan Mikkelsen serves as a senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Mikkelsen reminded Klamath off-project irrigators Monday night that he’s a veteran of water wars.

“I organized a tractor brigade in western Montana,” Mikkelsen said. “Because we were being hit with in-stream flow requirements that were imposed by a lawsuit brought by the local tribes.”

Former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams recalled the Klamath Basin water shutoff of 2001.

“Issues were raised about fish, and water supplies, and Tribal rights,” Mallams explained. “Fish were dubiously listed without due process to the E.S.A., and driven to a point that water management was affected, and steps were taken to create a huge problem for agriculture.”

Solutions suggested by off-project irrigators to water issues include removal of juniper trees, privatization of the Klamath Project, and creation of a public utility district.

To boost sucker fish populations, the plan suggests targeting minnows that prey on sucker larvae and reducing lake levels.

Mikkelsen reminded the group that he’s not an advocate for Tribes or irrigators. “I’m here to be an advocate for consensus because of the experience that I have had.”

Mikkelsen has made six previous trips to the Klamath Basin to meet with stakeholders on the water issue.

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