Klamath, Coos representatives meet

"We want to do any thing we can to help you over here."

- Commissioner Bill Brown

 
* Coos Bay meeting was everything, and more

By Pat Ratliff
Klamath Courier staff writer
May 10, 2006

COOS BAY - Wednesday, May 3, 2006 was a historic day.  Seven representatives of the Klamath Basin traveled to Coos County to speak to a group of politicians and fishermen, to offer their support to the fishermen and clear the air on some of the misrepresentations about the Klamath Project. 
 
Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown took Senator Doug Whitsett, Bill Ransom, Dan Keppen, Lani Hickey, Rick Woodley and Ron Hathaway as representative of the Klamath Basin.

Coos County Commissioner John Griffith and Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown arranged the meeting, which was also attended by Senators Joanne Verger, Coos Bay and Doug Whitsett, Klamath Falls as well as Representatives Wayne Krieger, Gold Beach, and Arnie Roblan, Coos Bay and Nikki Whitty, Coos County Commissioner.

Around 80 people attended the four hour meeting. 

Coos County Commissioner John Griffith opened the meeting by stating the meeting was being attended by elected officials and no federal officials were present, which was answered by loud applause.

"People came from all over the west to help us in 2001." Commissioner Brown told the crowd, "We want to do any thing we can to help you over here."

Bill Ransom gave a power point presentation of the project and what the basin was like pre-project, and showed how the project has made flows more reliable and actually benefit fish in the lower river, providing more water than was available historically.

Dan Keppen told of conservation steps taken since 2001, and also spoke of the problems bureaucracy has added to the Klamath Basin.

Lani Hickey gave a short but very effective talk on restoration efforts in the basin, noting that in her five allotted minutes, she couldn't even list them all, let alone explain them.

Senator Whitsett gave the crowd quite a surprise, speaking on the hydrology of the basin, river and the Project, causing one listener to whisper to the Klamath Courier, "I've never heard a politician know so much about a subject."

The heart of the meeting came after the presentations though.  Fishermen and politicians asked questions of the Klamath contingent, which were all answered fully.  When one participant didn't know every fact, another from the contingent stepped in and finished up, leaving the crowd of fishermen feeling, as one said, "We weren't being lied to, they did a great job of explaining it to us in terms we could understand."

John Ward, president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Southwest Chapter, told of his groups support for the commercial fishermen.
"We want them back fishing, that's the best solution to their problem." Ward said, and also spoke of other groups trying to promote divisiveness, "I've been lobbied by so many environmental groups to jump on the bandwagon of 'blame it on the upper river'.  I'm so glad you came and let us see your side of the story."

The main need of the fishermen right now is immediate disaster relief money. 
 
After a shortened season last year, most are very short of cash.  The problem is, until President Bush declares a disaster, nothing can be freed up.  As of Saturday afternoon, the President had not yet declared a disaster.

"We need to get the money straight to the people," Representative Wayne Krieger told the crowd, "And keep the federal government and the State of Oregon out of it."

Senator Whitsett agreed, "I have three friends and clients who went bankrupt in 2001.  The fact the government gave some money two years later didn't do them any good, and it won't do you any good either" he told the crowd.

"Last year on this day, I had already brought in 28,000 dollars," Fisherman Rick Goche said, "and not one nickel this year."

The crowd agreed that more of these talks need to be held, and plans were made to work on a date for another meeting.
 
 
Permission to post from the publisher.