Negotiate, don’t litigate

Bob Sharkey is a member of the Oroville City Council and involved with the Oroville Dam relicensing negotiations from the beginning.

I have attended many of the Oroville Dam relicensing meetings in the last four years, during which I’ve heard and witnessed a great deal. I can no longer hold back my feelings, especially after the Dec. 1 Butte County Board of Supervisors meeting.

How long will the citizens sit silently while the county continues to waste their money? The Oroville relicensing settlement package is shaping up nicely, and the county may not only miss out if it doesn’t get on board, we also could all lose some of the existing project benefits. And if that’s not enough, the county will in all likelihood saddle the taxpayers—you and me—with additional attorneys’ bills.

The county continues to be unrealistic at the negotiating table, painting itself into an isolated corner. It appears to be positioning the taxpayers to foot the bill for the lawsuit. Do you want our money spent on lawsuits, or do you want to appreciate the benefits from the project?

Most other stakeholders have seen successes at the negotiating table: The City of Oroville, the Town of Paradise; the Feather River Recreation and Parks Department, the Oroville Recreational Advisory Committee, the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce and others think it’s a good deal. But Butte County can only say, “We want more.” What is at stake is the potential for the county to walk away from $440 million in recreation benefits because its leaders think the deep pockets of the state can pay out more.

The Department of Water Resources and the state Water Commission have made additional concessions in an attempt to negotiate in good faith, but it’s never enough for the county. In fact, the SWC is so tired of giving it’s let the county negotiators know that if they don’t sign the settlement agreement, whatever success in negotiation will be withdrawn, including a long list of new recreation facilities at Lime Saddle that the Town of Paradise was able to add to the settlement agreement.

It would likely include additional boat ramp lanes at Bidwell Marina and the Spillway, perhaps cover the loss of annual payments for the county’s water entitlements from the State Water Project as well as funding of the county’s conjunctive-use studies.

The settlement is shaping up to be a good deal, and you need to tell your supervisor that you want to be part of it, not a lawsuit. This is Oroville’s opportunity to realize the benefits from the project and take control of our future. We live in the shadow of the dam, and the settlement package will allow us to develop local solutions for local problems. We need more and better jobs for our community, and the settlement agreement, not a lawsuit, will help us get there. We can do this together. It’s in our best interest.