Tea Party Republican Decides to Wreck Klamath River Agreement Just For the Hell of It


Here’s a depressing story for you. After years of acrimony and negotiations, the various factions who get water from the Klamath River basin finally hammered out a water-sharing agreement in 2008 that was lavishly praised by Rep. Greg Walden, who represents the area. In 2014, the last of the holdouts signed on and it looked like a war that had lasted over a decade might finally be over. But the Republican Party has gone nuts since 2008, and Greg Walden apparently went nuts right along with them:

As it turns out, Walden, a tea party favorite, is now chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which makes him the House’s third-most powerful member. Given Republicans’ views on federal power, you’d think he’d continue to support a bottom-up agreement like this, particularly since the majority of his constituents decided they needed it. But conservative orthodoxy holds that dam removal is never good — apparently even when, as in this case, the dams are antiquated, environmentally disastrous and privately owned, and when nearly every constituency in the community would benefit.

So here is what the basin got for doing everything right. After five years of struggle for congressional approval of the Klamath agreement, the four Democratic senators of California and Oregon introduced authorizing legislation in January. But this month, just ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline dissolving the agreement if it hasn’t gained Congress’ approval by then, Walden unveiled a draft House bill that will almost surely kill the deal. It omits dam removal — the agreement’s centerpiece — and includes an unrelated provision to turn over 200,000 acres of federal timberland to two counties on the California-Oregon border. Given the new provision’s controversial content and the timing of the House bill, Walden must have known it had no chance of passage. In essence, his move consigned the Klamath’s “best and longest-lasting solution” to Washington’s black hole.

It’s just obstruction for the sake of obstruction. Or because Walden hates the Obama administration, which OKed the deal. Or, perhaps he did it for the sake of some particular interest group that’s donated money to him. Who knows? It’s insanity.

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