Congressional panel votes to strip Klamath group of funds

June 26, 2003

By Don Thompson

The Associated Press

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Sacramento, California (AP) - A congressional committee on Wednesday voted to strip funding from a Klamath River advisory panel that a Northern California congressman says is hurting farmers' fight for scarce irrigation water.

U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., wants to eliminate the $111,000 that pays the Klamath Fisheries Management Council's administrative and technical support costs and other expenses.

Neighboring Rep. Mike Thompson's effort to restore the money failed on a voice vote in the House Interior Appropriations Committee, though he promised to continue to try to reinstate the money when the debate moves to the full House.

Herger said in a statement that he is "elated the committee agreed with the need to institute some much-needed accountability" by eliminating funding for a panel that he says is slanted against farmers who are fighting against downstream fishermen and Indian tribes for irrigation water.

The downstream interests say more water is needed for fish. They have been backed by the 11-member council, which includes representatives from commercial and recreational ocean and river fishermen, river tribes, and state and federal agencies.

It indirectly helps determine how the river flowing from Southern Oregon through northwest California is split between the needs of farmers and fish.

Thompson, D-Calif., said that restoring the money is critical to make sure that fishermen and tribes "are on an equal playing field to the other interests on the Klamath River."