The U.S. Senate Tuesday passed a long-anticipated bipartisan energy bill, and Klamath Basin irrigators will reap some benefits, according to a press release.
The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) announced that it has been working for more than six months on the package along with Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Oregon Democrats, and others.
More than 300 amendments were offered to the energy bill, the package of Klamath amendments is one of only 39 amendments that were ultimately accepted into the final version of the bill.
Having passed the Senate, the bill now moves to a conference committee to have differences worked out from a previously passed House version of the bill.
“This is a significant achievement and one that wouldn’t have been possible without the relationships KWUA has developed with other stakeholders over the years,” said Brad Kirby, president of KWUA.
“These things don’t just happen, they take a tremendous amount of time, effort and resources and a sustained and persistent approach.” Kirby added that KWUA has never stopped working on these issues and that they are part of a package that keeps Klamath irrigators moving forward, not back.
The key elements for the Basin include:
n C-Flume Emergency and Extraordinary Operation and Maintenance (EEOM) designation, which would save millions of dollars for Project water users;
n Direction to Department of Interior to take actions to reduce power costs for irrigation in the Upper Basin;
n Authorization for reimbursement of some D Plant pumping costs;
n Elimination of need for federal contracts or permits for conveyance of non-Project water such as groundwater;
n Clear and permanent authorization for locally supported water bank activities.
Congressional delegation help
Merkley and Wyden introduced the amendment in early February, and received invaluable support from California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., actively engaged to help Senate Republicans understand the importance of the amendment and secure their support, the release said.
KWUA Executive Director Scott White said the level of engagement and knowledge of these issues with the congressional delegation is impressive.
“I can’t say enough about the work our delegation and their staffs did on this package of amendments. Even when things looked bleak, they stuck with it.” White also pointed out that support and assistance from the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was also critical.
“We are most grateful to Chairwoman (Sen. Lisa) Murkowski and Ranking Member (Sen. Maria) Cantwell for their support of this package as well.” Both White and Kirby said that this set of amendments is just one more step toward a larger goal of securing the viability of our family farms and ranches.
Settling water issues
Since the expiration of some key components of the Klamath Settlement Agreements in December, KWUA has continued to try to preserve important benefits that protect and assist irrigators.
White explained that these amendments are not related to dam removal, but that the involvement and support of a diverse group of stakeholders was key.
“There are many people who have helped get us get to this point, we are very fortunate to have significant support in Washington and in the West.”
Kirby pointed out that KWUA will continue to work with other parties with an ultimate goal of establishing a secure and predictable water supply for Project irrigators, while working productively with neighbors in the watershed.
“It’s a big and complicated watershed, we aren’t alone,” he said.
KWUA is a nonprofit private corporation that has represented Klamath Reclamation Project farmers and ranchers in its current form since 1953. The association’s membership includes rural and suburban irrigation districts, other public and private entities and individuals who operate on both sides of the California-Oregon border.
These entities and individuals typically hold water delivery contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Klamath Project is home to more than 1,200 family farms and ranches and encompasses more than 170,000 acres.