Power Struggles At Klamath Basin Task Force

Sep 20, 2013

Groups seeking permanent solutions to Klamath Basin water issues are experiencing power struggles. They debated who can access wholesale federal power Thursday in Klamath Falls. The groups asked for more time by scheduling an additional meeting on October 10.

Matt Walter represents ranchers in the upper Klamath Basin and says power is everything. Ranchers use power to pump water from a river or well and put it exactly where their crops need it. He says skyrocketing power costs have made ranching in the Basin difficult, especially with a costly year of drought and water shutoffs.

Walter: “Our power is so expensive we can’t afford it. That’s the crisis. So it’s making people a lot more humble.”

Walter says this means more ranchers will join regional water settlements seeking cheaper federal power. This also means supporting dam removal and river restoration. Those aren’t the top priorities of most ranchers. And it goes both ways. Troy Fletcher is executive director of the Yurok Tribe on the Lower Klamath River. He says power relief for farmers doesn’t exactly electrify his tribal members.

Fletcher: “We don’t necessarily support power relief but we can say we support power relief if you support the rest of the agreements.”

Senator Ron Wyden visits Klamath Falls Friday to recognize the groups working on regional water settlements. Wyden press secretary Tom Towslee says their job couldn’t be tougher.

Towslee: “This is the single most complex water resource issue in the United States right now.”

The groups will offer recommendations to Senator Wyden this fall, with legislation expected in 2014.

Copyright 2013 Jefferson Public Radio