By BILL KENNEDY
For the Capital Press
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement has something for everyone to dislike. From the dynamics of dam removal to the development of an unelected bureaucracy positioned to manipulate and manage our natural resources, it contains issues certain to upset anyone from Miller Lake to the mouth of the Klamath River.
The KBRA was created by a huge bureaucracy without fair and equitable representation. It charts a direction that intentionally limits the choices of our communities and governments. It is full of deception and is packed with unfunded mandates that will lead to conflict. It is not a program of self-determination for water, power and regulatory assurances. The communities that the agreement was alleged to embrace have been left hopeless and vulnerable. The proponents of the KBRA appear to be either part of the deception or victims of the process.
The KBRA leaves very important Klamath Basin issues unsettled. The agreement is not based on current legal authority, but rather on a complex web of administration that must rely upon new legal authority that has not yet been legislated.
A true water settlement must be founded on the Klamath River Adjudication. The adjudication process has been upheld by both the Oregon and the U.S. Supreme Courts. Our communities cannot move ahead with a legally binding direction for our future until the basis of water allocation has been established by law. Our state and county governments must assume the leadership role in charting this direction. They can lead us toward true self-determination and away from the growth of federal agencies and bureaucracies.
The KBRA is dependent on $1 billion of unappropriated federal funding. This proposal is a major federal action in need of a reality check. The only money now on the table is provided by PacifiCorp ratepayers in Oregon for dam removal that is not included in the billion-dollar price tag. We should not expect those dollars to come from the federal coffers, with our national treasury in the weakest shape in memory.
Moreover, redirecting funds from existing budgets is equally problematic. Imagine the outrage when existing USDA programs in Madras, Medford, Arizona or Iowa lose funding to this new project. More likely to occur is a marginalized budget that will funnel funds to the most influential parties of the KBRA. This will further divide our communities.
Today we have the final KBRA document in hand to examine. We are told we must sign on before Feb. 9. This date appears to be determined by potential photo-opportunity dates for officials. However, the federal parties to the agreement will not sign on until after legislation is passed.
The question is "do we sign on to such an ill-conceived direction and trust the bureaucrats? There are at least three good reasons not to sign at this time.
First, the required legislation may transform the KBRA into a process that we do not recognize.
Second, the KBRA may be transformed by the imminent Oregon and EPA release of the total maximum daily loads for the Klamath and Lost rivers. These documents may castrate our communities' abilities to address priorities in our watersheds.
Third, and most importantly, as our water year shapes itself, the Bureau of Reclamation has shown its inability to manage water storage. There is discussion of a zero allocation of water for irrigation from the Klamath River this year. Remember 1991 and 2009 when irrigation was terminated from the Lost River? Remember 2001 when irrigation was terminated from the Klamath River? If the bureau has failed to manage for irrigation from Klamath Lake this year, why would we expect it to care for our irrigation communities in any year?
Frankly, I do not trust our federal agencies. Every party at the KBRA table has been mistreated by the federal agencies. True stakeholders have been ignored, discredited and turned away. It makes no sense to get further in bed with the same agencies that terminated the tribes, terminated irrigation and terminated natural resource management in the Klamath Basin.
This is the time for our communities to join together to move the inept federal agencies out of our basin and embrace each other with hope and vision and true self-determination.
Should we sign the KBRA at this time? The answers are no and hell no!
Bill Kennedy is a natural resource producer in Klamath County, both on and off project. The private lands he manages and irrigates have been dedicated wildlife refuges since 1975.