Klamath water agreement won't deliver what is needed

In response to a guest opinion published in the Mail Tribune on May 16 by Gary Derry and Luke Robison, titled "Klamath commissioner inflames water dispute":

As an elected Klamath County commissioner, I am tasked to represent all of the citizens of Klamath County. I do not expect to please everyone. However, the results of the last election proved overwhelmingly that my very well-known positions and desired directions were indeed supported by the majority of the voters. (Approximately 73 percent in the 2012 general election)

The authors of the opinion article are major supporters of the Klamath Dam Removal Agreement and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, or KBRA. It seems they may have forgotten that the election results included all of Klamath County. For the record, I am still against the Klamath River dam removal proposal, (four dams), and the current KBRA. The current KBRA simply does not deliver what is needed.

I am, however, in complete agreement that a viable comprehensive settlement for all the Klamath Basin water is needed. This is my belief not only for the sake of the entire Klamath Basin, but also for the sake of irrigated agriculture within the Rogue Valley. The Rogue Valley receives approximately 30,000 acre feet of water from the Klamath Basin on a yearly basis. This water is used to irrigate pear orchards, hay fields, pastures and many other crops. Under the current agreements, I believe the Rogue Valley diversion will be in jeopardy during a short water year. Larry Menteer, Oregon state watermaster for Jackson County, acknowledged this in an interview with Ron Brown of KDRV Channel 12 on Sept. 21, 2011.

One of numerous examples in the KBRA that are detrimental to the Rogue Valley diversion, section 20.5.2E, states, "This prioritization list shall be used to target future opportunities to restore instream water within the Klamath Basin consistent with and to implement this Agreement."), also, (15.3.2 B ii within the Klamath Project Water Users-Klamath Tribes-United States Bureau of Indian Affairs Stipulation, Attachment 1 reads: "Recognize the tribal water rights at the claimed amounts and with the priority date of time immemorial.")

According to my reading of the recent Yurok Tribes dispute initiation process, they are saying the Oregon Water Resources Department has agreed to provide, through the KBRA, "environmental water" in the adjudication, such that calls will be made to provide for this water. These calls based on environmental water would be made upon irrigators who are not a party to the KBRA. It certainly appears as though the state of Oregon has now surrendered to the federal government and other KBRA parties by creating a water right for "environmental water" out of thin air, which could now be enforceable against all irrigators.

The guest opinion insinuates that I have put out "a thinly veiled threat and, worse, a justification for violence." These accusations are 100 percent false and 100 percent unfounded. I have actively been doing the exact opposite. I have been taking every opportunity to keep local perspectives composed and tempers calm. However, to ignore the possible negative consequences of another major water shutoff would be totally irresponsible.

The writers of the guest opinion are doing nothing more than repeating history. Whenever supporters of a failing, misguided direction become desperate, they resort to unfounded personal attacks. As an elected official, I will openly accept criticism from any citizen; however, I also promised to never avoid the hard decisions but rather meet them head-on and work for solutions that are supported by all the citizens I represent. Again, not everyone will be satisfied when tough choices have to be made, but I am disappointed the authors have once again descended to this level.

I do look forward to a united community and my door is always open for further discussion and enlightenment.

Tom Mallams is a Klamath County commissioner.
Correction: Tom Mallams' name has been corrected here.

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