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Local groups call on Congress to solve Klamath water wars

June 29, 2013

By Annette Birch

The article has been published in The Capital Post,

In Oregon 96,000 acres of agricultural land may soon be without water because the present drought at the Klamath River Basin has forced local authorities to shut down water for several farmers in the upper basin.  According to Becky Hyde, board member at the nonprofit Upper Klamath Water Users Association, who testified before a House committee on June 20, the shutdown would mean that 70,000 animals would be without feed.

“There are a lot of concerned families out there. Some people are saying that they will not be able to make it through the summer,” said Hyde, who represents 400 farming families. She added that her family was among those who will be without water. “Just last Wednesday, the water master delivered the news to my nine-year-old son at home while his dad was out irrigating, that our water would be shut off.”

Along with  16 other local representatives of farmers, tribal leaders, environmental groups and state officials testifying before the committee, Hyde asked Congress to pass legislation which would secure a permanent solution for the distribution of water from the river basin. The groups asked Congress to pass legislation which would implement a 2004 settlement for the Klamath River Basin and give them tools to resist drought. The settlement has never been implemented due to the costs of the settlement.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.) agreed that the imminent drought at the Klamath River Basin required immediate action and that some part of the settlement may require federal legislation. However, he thought $800 million was too high a price for Congress to pay and invited recommendations to lower the costs. He also called for California to pay what it was supposed to pay according to the 2004 agreement.

“California is good for solving its financial commitment,” replied John Lair, Secretary for Natural Resources at the California Natural Resources Agency. He added that after having solved its own deficit problem, California is now ready to pay its share.

Mike Connor, Commissioner at the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, also suggested that $ 250 million out of the $ 800 million could be found through cutting funding from other federal agencies.

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