Klamath objections included in committee records

Klamath objections included in committee records
Not all written submissions were included in shorter printed report of June 3 hearing
By Andrew Clevenger
The Bulletin

December 4, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee’s “Official Committee Record” of a June hearing on the Klamath Basin water-sharing deal includes objections raised by environmental groups and several tribes.

The objectors, including WaterWatch of Oregon, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Oregon Wild, recently raised concerns when the written testimony they submitted for a June 3 hearing on the Klamath deal was not part of the committee’s printed report for the hearing.

The confusion lies in part in the difference between the printed report, a 77-page document printed by the Government Printing Office that is available online, and the Official Committee Record, a large binder composed of hundreds of pages of documents that is not online.

Josh Sheinkman, who spent 13 months as staff director of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chaired the panel, said that during his tenure, the committee had to exercise some discretion in deciding what to include in the shorter printed report.

“Lengthy submissions, while made a part of the written record, were not always included in the Government Printing Office-printed report because of cost,” he said, adding that he could not speak to the committee’s current practices. “It was not done to censor anyone’s views or exclude anyone’s views.”

Sometimes, parties submitted documents that ran thousands of pages, said Sheinkman, who is now staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, which Wyden chairs.

While the binder containing the Official Committee Record was made available to a reporter, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee declined requests to provide on-the-record comments for this article.

The official record contains written submissions from numerous parties, including WaterWatch, PacifiCorp, Oregon Wild, the Klamath Tribes, Siskiyou County, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, among others. Some are in favor of the legislation, some opposed. Oregon Wild’s submission, made with the Audubon Society of Portland, runs six pages, WaterWatch’s 23, and the Hoopa Tribe’s totaled 122 pages.

Federal legislation is needed to codify the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, an effort to develop a water-sharing plan for competing claims on limited water, including those of the Klamath Tribes, irrigators and ranchers. Environmentalists want to see more water dedicated to fish and wildlife. The deal was signed in April, just more than a year after the Oregon Water Resources Department adjudicated the issue after 38 years of litigation.

Under the principle of first in time, first in right, the Klamath Tribes were awarded top claim to much of Upper Klamath Lake and portions of its tributaries. But should high-priority rights holders exercise a “call” on their water claim during particularly dry years, ranchers and irrigators worry they wouldn’t have enough water for their livestock and crops.

Jim McCarthy, a spokesman for WaterWatch of Oregon, said the organization was not satisfied with the explanation involving differences between the printed report and the official record.

“If the printed (report) is supposed to be a reflection of the hearing testimony, a reference, and a refresher for committee members, then basic fairness and thoroughness would dictate that it should include one of the submitted opposition testimonies at a minimum, not just include cherry-picked supporter testimony. If this is the standard procedure, it should be changed,” he wrote in an email.

The process has left McCarthy with the impression that it hasn’t been fair and deliberative. WaterWatch participated in the Klamath Basin Task Force, formed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, but that group’s final report omitted the concerns of all the dissenting task force members, McCarthy said.

“Then the June hearing was held on short notice, at least regarding giving notice to the opposition parties, and none of the opposition was invited to testify, including a dissenting sovereign tribe,” he said. “Following on that, someone apparently decided not to include any submitted opposition testimony in the printed record. Is this really how a deliberative body decides to pass a billion-dollar package of legislation?”