RURAL WESTERN LAWMAKERS ASK WHY NOW?'
A group of Northwest members of Congress today questioned the timing and motivation of a Natural Resources Committee hearing on political interference in the 2001 Klamath River Basin water crisis. One point of particular concern is the effect the hearing could have on the 26-member Klamath Settlement Group, a forward-looking coalition of stakeholders working toward a November 2007 target date to devise a locally-driven solution to the water conflicts. The delicate discussions have been ongoing between farmers, Indian tribes, fishermen and conservation groups for two years.
The lawmakers also cited a 2004 letter from Department of the Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney (appointed by the Clinton administration in 1999), in response to a request from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to investigate allegations of political interference in the Klamath Basin. An excerpt from the full letter is below:
"None of the individuals we interviewed - including the Whistleblower - was able to provide any competent evidence that the Department utilized suspect scientific data or suppressed information that was contained in economic and scientific reports related to the Klamath Project [W]e found no evidence of political influence affecting the decisions pertaining to the water in the Klamath Project The consistent denial of political influence by government officials was corroborated by the view of the outside scientists and one former DOI official, all of whom denied feeling any pressure - political or otherwise."
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.): "The work of the Klamath Settlement Group is of paramount importance; only they can produce a long-term and locally-driven resolution for competing constituencies to endorse. But this hearing will contribute zero substance to their work. If anything, it risks renewing old rivalries and heightening tensions among stakeholders. Anyone who is serious about a comprehensive resolution for the Klamath Basin would not have called this hearing, especially at this time."
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.): "The Endangered Species Act has a huge impact in the Pacific Northwest and dictates how we use our land and water, how we transport our goods to market and even how much our electricity bills cost each month. What happened to the Klamath Project farming community and the wildlife refuge is one further example of why we need to enact common sense reforms to the Endangered Species Act. We need to focus on a collaborative approach that is based on independent peer-reviewed science. In the future, I hope we can concentrate our efforts on the future of the Klamath Project and the positive negotiations and discussions currently taking place."
Congressman Wally Herger (R-Calif.): "Political finger-pointing inside the Beltway will do nothing to address the difficult issues in the Klamath Basin. Instead of trying to score political points and rehashing unproven myths, the Natural Resources Committee should instead be embracing the positive actions that Klamath Basin farmers and others are taking to reach a predictable and stable solution on the river."
Congressman John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.): "I am perplexed by the attempts of my Democratic colleagues to politicize the Klamath issue by calling for a congressional hearing at the worst possible time. The primary stakeholders comprised of a 26-member Klamath Settlement Group are very close to an agreement and have not asked for a congressional hearing of any kind. If the Democrats insist on meddling, they should at least be having the hearings in California instead of Washington, where those most impacted by the situation would have the best chance to be heard."