Election Section

Senate may consider Klamath aid

By Katherine Pfleger, The Associated Press
Saturday December 08, 2001

WASHINGTON — The Senate could consider a proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., as early as next week to provide $175 million in aid for the drought-stricken Klamath region. 

The measure is part of a Democratic amendment package to the $170 billion farm bill, Wyden’s office said Friday. 

The funding would be doled out over four years starting after October 2002. Specifically, $30 million will go to the region’s four tribes — the Klamath, Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk. 

Wyden’s legislation would also establish an interagency task force, headed by the Agriculture Department, to specify how the funding is used and to create a draft five-year plan about how to fix the region’s water issues. 

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and other parties have not signed off on Wyden’s proposal yet. Smith’s spokesman Chris Matthews said the Oregon and California senators’ offices are still working with the stakeholders to come up with a provision “that is acceptable to everyone.” 

Six or seven years out of every decade, the Klamath Basin on the California-Oregon border doesn’t have enough water for its wildlife, farmers and ranchers. 

The region’s interest groups, as well as lawmakers and government agencies, have been grappling for solutions after this year’s particularly dry summer heated tensions in the region. 

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., wants to have the farm bill ready for President Bush’s signature by year’s end, but prospects are dimming that lawmakers can work out their differences on a variety of issues. The Senate started debate on the bill Wednesday and put off votes until next week. 

The Republican-controlled House passed a different version of the farm bill earlier this fall. 

For Klamath, “Senator Wyden sees this as one of the last trains leaving the station,” his spokeswoman Lisa Wade Raasch said.