Two of the chief promoters of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement –the KBRA or Klamath Water Deal – are calling for a public relations offensive. Craig Tucker, who works for the Karuk Tribe, and Glen Spain, who represents commercial salmon fishers, want to improve the image of the Deal and of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBCC) which was established by the Department of Interior to implement it.
Tucker and Spain presented the proposal at a meeting of the Council held recently in Redding California. The Capital Press, which reported on the meeting, quoted Tucker on the purpose for the charm offensive:
The emphasis is on sharing with the public what it is we're doing and allowing the public to provide feedback….We also want to take head-on some of the myths about who we are and what we're doing.
KlamBlog is skeptical. If this group really wanted feedback it would have released for comment the draft Drought Plan they have negotiated behind closed doors; or better still, they would develop that plan from scratch in public.
In the same interview in which he called for better communication, Tucker labeled those who do not support the Deal as opposed to compromise. That is precisely the sort of “gotcha” rhetoric which alienates those who honestly do not believe the Water Deal and the restoration arrangements embedded within it provide a real or durable solution to the Basin’s water conflicts. This is not new; for years now Tucker has been attacking anyone who does not fall into line with the Water Deal he supports.
If those agencies and interests pushing the KBRA really want to engage their critics, they should reach out one to one – not rely on a PR campaign. Tucker’s sound bite claiming that those who support the Water Deal represent the “radical center” of Klamath politics is yet another roadblock to real dialogue.
The Coordinating Council should hold its meetings within the Basin where most of its critics reside. Instead - like many important meetings impacting the Klamath in the past - the meeting at which Tucker and Spain made their PR proposal was held in Redding, California in the Sacramento River Basin. This is apparently to accommodate agency bureaucrats and others from places like Sacramento, Portland and Eugene.
A majority of those who negotiated the Water Deal do not reside within the Klamath River Basin; as KlamBlog has pointed out, the KBRA is really an agency initiative – not something which emerged from the grassroots.
That may have been appropriate for dealing with PacifiCorp’s dams. But a Klamath-centered effort to manage the Basin’s water and resolve conflicts over it would surely meet in the Basin where residents and local leaders could more easily participate. Such a process would not be dominated by agency bureaucrats and corporate lawyers flying in for meetings and then leaving just as quickly.
The restoration arrangement which Tucker and Spain want to promote is not based on science but on politics. It was negotiated in meetings from which key interests were excluded. It is not a plan but rather an agreement about where in the Basin to spend restoration money the deal-makers want taxpayers to supply.
Those who negotiated the Water Deal set up the so-called plan so that most restoration funding will flow to the tribes and interest groups which signed it. As KlamBlog has point out in the past, a Deal which in substance favors some water users, tribes and environmental interests over other water users, tribes and environmental interests - can only serve to exacerbate – not resolve - conflicts.
KBRA critics want a real restoration plan based on restoration science, developed in the light of day with the participation of ALL interests. Until they accede to that reasonable demand, all of the PR in the world will not improve the image of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Committee or of the Klamath Water Deal.