By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
A proposed summit to focus on the Klamath River's water quality, fish diseases, irrigation and dams remains an unset date in the future as parties continue private talks planning for the troubled waterway.
In October, Oregon's Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for a summit on the waterway's issues by the end of the year.
This week, a planning committee made up of Oregon and California government officials and federal agencies will consider dates for the summit that could take place in March in Klamath Falls, Ore., said Michael Carrier, Kulongoski's natural resources policy director.
But the summit depends on the progress that 28 groups make in private settlement negotiations. Those groups include farmers, irrigators, local government officials and logging and timber industry representatives, as well as fishermen, tribal members, areas residents and conservationists.
Settlement talks aim to plan out water rights, use and allocations, including dam operations. The groups met over the weekend.
"We're waiting to hear," Carrier said of results.
The focus comes as PacifiCorp seeks to renew a 50-year license through the Energy Regulatory Commission to run its four dams on the river.
The Portland, Ore.-based power company's representatives remain in negotiations in settlement talks although the other groups have met without them.
"I think there's been quite a lot of that lately," company spokesman Dave Kvamme said.
A summit likely will take place when the parties have agreed on a possible plan, Kvamme said. The summit would detail the legal and legislative process to carry out agreements.
"The summit would be useful," he said, noting the recognition and influence that political leaders would probably bring in a public forum. "It would be for the best."
The Klamath River has gained others' attention this month, as well.
President, Congress taking steps that aim to improve quality of river
President George W. Bush signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 that aims to regulate fishing. The measure updates the original 1976 law so that it runs from fiscal year 2007 through 2013.
It includes a provision from U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., requiring the U.S. Department of Commerce to draft a recovery plan for the waterway within six months.
Thompson also introduced the Pacific Salmon Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2007 that calls for Congress to give more than $60 million to fishermen, tribes and businesses that suffered after last year's commercial fishing failure. A natrual resources committee in the U.S. House of Representatives may soon review the proposal.