The Klamath County Chamber of Commerce in a letter today urged U.S. Representative Greg Walden to actively engage and support federal legislation that would authorize critical Klamath Basin water settlements. That bill – the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act (SB 2379) - passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support last week.
SB 2379 would authorize three key Klamath settlement agreements that provide the only rational, comprehensive and lasting solution to the water problems that have plagued the Basin’s past and cast doubt on its future.
“The Klamath Basin Agreements are in serious danger of failing unless Congress enacts implementing legislation this year or makes immediate and meaningful progress toward approval,” said Chamber Executive Director Chip Massie. “If the Agreements should fail, we will be at a loss for solutions to the incredible challenges and conflicts of this Basin.”
The Chamber’s letter acknowledged Rep. Walden’s successful track record on solving critical issues facing Klamath County in the past, including telecommunications, higher education and health care challenges. Now, the Chamber is looking to Rep. Walden to assume the same assertive role that Oregon’s Senators – Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley – have taken to advance SB 2379 in the U.S. Senate.
“Once again, we look forward to standing with you to provide leadership and engagement that will put us on the path towards more certain and affordable water and power for our agricultural community,” the Chamber letter stated.
Because another summer drought is likely in 2015, early curtailment of water to local irrigators is a grim reality if the Agreements are not authorized by Congress before December 31st. This would significantly impact area family farms and ranches, and send a shock wave into Klamath County’s economic foundation. Agriculture provides tremendous direct and indirect benefits to the local and regional economy. Klamath County is a regional economic hub, with a total contribution from agriculture to the county in 2012 of $584,000,000 and over 8,500 people employed in the farm sector.
When funded and implemented, the agreements will have a significant and long lasting effect on the local economy, including the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in outside money that would be spent in the region.
“The improved certainty provided by the settlement agreements lends to a more stable economy that will in turn attract more businesses and private investment to our community,” said Bridgitte Griffin, Chamber President.
This perception is one that is shared by a growing segment of Klamath County residents. A recent poll conducted by Moore Information, shows strong support for the negotiated agreements among voters in the Oregon portion of the Basin. A clear majority of the respondents understood that the negotiated agreements included trade-offs, such as the removal of four Klamath River dams, and were willing to accept those trade-offs when considering the full economic picture of the Basin.
“The Klamath Basin is at a historic crossroads in its future,” said Mr. Massie. “Congress will determine whether our communities move forward with a collaborative, locally-developed plan for managing water, or return to a destructive water war. We know that Congressman Walden’s engagement will be crucial in making these hard-worked, locally-developed agreements come to fruition in Washington.”
Read the letter to US Representative Walden (pdf, 458kb).
View the recent poll (pdf,170kb).