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KSG Proposed Settlement a Compromise – Unless You’re a Fish

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 By Chris ThomasContact
January 16, 2008

Klamath Falls, OR – A billion-dollar settlement deal for water and land rights in southern Oregon's Klamath Basin has been made public after more than a year of difficult discussions – but it doesn't say anything about an issue that set off the debate, removal of four dams on the Klamath River.

A partial agreement by the Klamath Settlement Group among 26 parties including counties, farms, tribes and other stakeholders appears to be as controversial as the negotiations that led up to it.

Sean Stevens, spokesperson for the conservation group Oregon Wild, says it looks like a better deal for commercial farms than for fish or wildlife in the Klamath Basin. Stevens explains that, instead of getting rid of dams, the plan leases National Wildlife Refuge land for commercial farming for another 50 years, and guarantees minimum amounts of water for irrigation, but not for fish, particularly the salmon runs on the Klamath.

"Because of its huge $1 billion price tag, and because it doesn't do anything to solve the underlying issues – lease-land farming and water flows for fish – this plan is going to put dam removal at risk."

PacificCorp, which owns the dams, was not included in the negotiations and says it has not determined the fate of the dams. Oregon Wild and another state-based conservation group also were excluded from the talks. Some of the participating groups have said they won't sign the agreement unless it includes more protection for native fish.

Stevens also wonders why, without dam removal, the plan would cost so much, and who will pay for it?

"Where's that billion-dollar price tag going to come from? If you live outside the Klamath, your tax dollars are going to go towards funding these special interests – and not protecting the national wildlife refuges that we all own."

The agreement can be viewed online, at www.edsheets.com/klamathdocs.html.

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