Hypocrisy in action

Lawmakers in Washington, including Doug LaMalfa, let a good bill die

Republicans in Congress, including our own District 1 representative, Doug LaMalfa, often rail against federal power while extolling states’ rights and local government as being closer to the people.

Now and then, however, something happens that reveals their rhetoric is just lip service. Take, for example, the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act of 2015.

For decades, people have been feuding over water use and dams in the Klamath River Basin, on the Oregon-California border. Farmers, Native American tribes, commercial fishing operations and environmentalists have fought bitterly over how the water was allocated. This bill would have led the way to removal of four hydroelectric dams on the river, guaranteed water deliveries to basin irrigators, protection for the river’s salmon runs, and other environmental benefits.

When the four dams, owned by PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway, came up for their 50-year relicensing, the company realized it would have to spend $400 million cleaning out the toxic algae in the water behind the dams and adding fish ladders to the structures. PacifiCorp subsequently decided to support removal of the dams, as long as ratepayers and a California bond measure (since passed) paid for the dismantling.

Meanwhile, the various parties were seeking to negotiate a regional settlement that would meet everyone’s needs. Despite a long history of acrimony and distrust, they succeeded. A true grassroots, bottom-up product, the agreement was signed by a coalition of about 45 government agencies, two tribal governments, farmers, irrigators and environmental groups.

In January 2015 the four U.S. senators in California and Oregon introduced the bill in Congress, where it sat, stymied by Republican opposition, including LaMalfa’s, in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee until its Dec. 31 signing deadline passed and it died.

So much for local control. There’s a word for this: hypocrisy.