NPR Story
7:38 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Shutdown Delays Work Of Klamath Basin Task Force

A sustained federal government shutdown continues to affect the region, and the Klamath Basin task force is the latest victim.

The final task force session, scheduled for Thursday in Klamath Falls, has been postponed due to the government shutdown.

“Unfortunately, we need certain federal participants in order to be able to complete work on this effort,” wrote Richard Whitman, the governor’s natural resources advisor.

Whitman has overseen the task force’s meetings, which began on July 11.

The task force, formed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is tasked with finding long-term solutions to Basin-wide water management issues.

The group’s recommendations will form the basis for legislation Sen. Wyden plans to introduce during the current legislative session.

Specifically, Sen. Wyden convened the 27 stakeholders to solve the lingering problems of high federal costs, equitable power for pumping water and a lack of inclusion for all parties in order to make regional water settlements more palatable for a, budget-conscious Congress.

Task force members include farmers and ranchers, conservationists, tribal members, government agencies and power utilities.

Federal agencies have a large presence in the Klamath Basin task force. Involved agencies include: Department of the Interior, Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Without the involvement of these groups, it’s especially difficult to solve lingering issues of water in the upper Klamath Basin between the Klamath Tribes and irrigators; they have been negotiating a water settlement under a confidentiality agreement due to ongoing litigation against water rights claims.

According to the governor’s office, no date has been set for the final task force meeting — though Richard Whitman predicts it will be two weeks after the government shutdown ends.

dschwartz@heraldandnews.com

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