Sen. Merkley Transcript

MR. MERKLEY: THANK YOU, MADAM PRESIDENT. I RISE TODAY TO
ADDRESS A KEY UNFINISHED PIECE OF BUSINESS THAT IS EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT TO THE KLAMATH BASIN OF SOUTHERN OREGON. THE KLAMATH
BASIN ACT HAS NOT BEEN ENACTED HERE AT THE CLOSE OF THIS
CONGRESS. AND IN THAT FAILURE, CONGRESS IS MISSING A CRITICAL
OPPORTUNITY TO PUT IN PLACE A LOCALLY DEVELOPED SOLUTION TO A
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LONGTIME WATER DISPUTE. THIS FAILURE CREATES A SUBSTANTIAL RISK
OF CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR RANCHING AND FARMING
FAMILIES, RISKS THAT WERE ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE. LET ME START BY
TELLING YOU WHAT AN AMAZING PLACE THE KLAMATH BASIN IS. KLAMATH
BASIN IS ONE OF THE NATURAL WONDERS OF THE AMERICAN WEST. IT
HAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST SALMON RUNS PACIFIC AND PART OF THE
LARGEST CONTINUOUS BLOCKS OF WILD RIVERS AND WILD LANDS ON THE
PACIFIC COAST. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MIGRATION COAST
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IN THE PACIFIC COAST FLY AWAY FOR BIRD MIGRATION. IT IS AN
IMPORTANT PLACE FOR DUCK HUNTERS UP AND DOWN THE WEST COAST.
THE KLAMATH RIVER ITSELF CHARTS A PATH TO THE SOUTH OF CRATER
LAKE, AN AMAZING NATURAL WONDER, HERE THE CRATER CREATED BY A
VERY LARGE CASCADE VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN THAT BLEW ITS TOP. AND THE
CALIFORNIA RED WOODS TO THE SOUTH. IT CONNECTS THE GREAT BASIN
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GEOLOGY, THE CASCADE VOLCANOES AND DEEP AND MAJESTIC RIVER
CANYONS ALONG ITS WAY. AND AMIDST THIS NATURAL WONDER, IN THIS
BASIN LIES SOME OF THE MOST FERTILE AND AGRICULTURAL LAND IN
THE NORTHWEST, GENERATING $600 MILLION A YEAR IN BARLEY,
POTATOES, ONIONS, MINT AND, AS YOU CAN SEE IN THIS PHOTO, IN
BEEF. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE KLAMATH BASIN BY PIONEERS FROM THE
EAST AND SUBSEQUENT DEVELOPMENT OF FARMING AND RANCHING IN THE
KLAMATH BASIN HAS A STORIED HISTORY. THE FIRST WHITE EXPLORER
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THOUGHT TO ENTER THE AREA WAS JOHN FREEMAN DURING THE MEXICAN
AMERICAN WAR. THE FIRST WHITE SETTLER WAS THE PIONEERING
APPLEGATE FAMILY, FOR THE FINAL STAGES OF THE OREGON TRAIL.
AGRICULTURE WAS OF COURSE A MAJOR FOCUS OF SETTLEMENT. AND EVEN
SOME OF THE MORE RECENTLY DEVELOPED AGRICULTURAL LANDS PLAYED A
KEY MOMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY. WHEN PART OF OF THE KLAMATH
RECREATIONAL DEPARTMENT WAS OFFERED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
AND OFFERED AS HOMESTEADING OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS
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RETURNING FROM WORLD WAR II. THIS REGION HAS A HISTORY LONG
BEFORE SETTLERS FOR THE EAST CAME TO IT. IT WAS ALREADY
INHABITED BY NATIVE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE LIVED IN THE KLAMATH
BASIN FOR 10,000 YEARS AND WHO HAVE A DEEP CONNECTION TO THIS
AMAZING PLACE. THE KLAMATH AND MODACK TRIBES HAVE HIFORTS WITH
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HISTORIES OF THE ERUPTION OF A VOLCANO THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO.
THE HUPAS TALK ABOUT HAVING FIRE PITS THAT HAVE BEEN CARBONATED
BEEN IN USE MANY THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO. IN THE KLAMATH COUNTY
MUSEUM THERE IS ON DISPLAY THE OLDEST SANDALS IN THE WORLD THAT
WE HAVE EVER DISCOVERED MADE OF SAGEBRUSH. THE EARLY HISTORY OF
SETTLEMENT FROM THE EAST LED QUICKLY TO CONFLICT. JOHN
FREMONT’S EXPEDITION LEAD TO A BATTLE WITH THE KLAMATH TRIBES.
THE OPENING OF THE APPLE GATE TRAIL THROUGH THE BASIN LED TO
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CON FLUCT WITH THE MODUCK TRIBES AND SETTLERS ALONG THE RIVER.
IT LED TO PERSECUTION OF TRIBES AND LED TO A STANDOFF WITH AN
ARMY THAT HELD A FEW DOZEN MODOC FAMILIES OVERSEAS.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR TOO MUCH OF RECENT HISTORY, CONFLICT HAS
CONTINUED TO DEFINE THE KLAMATH BASIN. IN THE 1950’S THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TERMINATED FEDERAL RECOGNITION OF THE
KLAMATH TRIBES CONVERTING THEIR RESERVATION INTO A COMBINATION
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OF NATURAL FOREST LANDS AND PRIVATE LANDS. IN THE 1970’S
CONFLICT ERUPTED BETWEEN THE LOWER RIVER TRIBES AND MANAGERS OF
THE TRIBES’ TREATY TRIBES THEY HAVE HARVESTED FOR THOUSANDS OF
YEARS. SOON AFTER FARMERS, RANCHERS TRIBES INITIATED LITIGATION
OVER WATER RIGHTS AND THAT LITIGATION HAS BEEN GOING INTENSELY
UNTIL VERY RECENTLY. TRIBES WANT TO BE ASSURED OF THEIR RIGHTS
TO CONTINUE FISHING PRACTICES THAT THEY HAVE PASSED DOWN FROM
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GENERATION TO GENERATION FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. FARMERS AND
RANCHERS WANT TO BE SURE THAT THEY WILL HAVE WATER THEY NEED TO
SUSTAIN THEIR OPERATIONS THAT THE FAMILIES DEPEND ON FOR
SUCCESS. FOR DECADES THE TENSION OVER WATER HAS BEEN
ACCENTUATED IN TIMES OF DROUGHT CULMINATING MOST FAMOUSLY IN A
STANDOFF IN 2001 THAT MADE NATIONAL NEWS. DURING THAT 2001
DROUGHT IRRIGATION WATER FOR THE KLAMATH RECOGNIZE CLAMATION
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PROJECT — RECLAIMATION PRODUCT WAS SHUT OFF. THOUSANDS OF
PEOPLE GATHERED IN KLAMATH FALLS IN SYMPATHY WITH THE FARMERS.
THERE WAS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND PEOPLE WERE WORRIED ABOUT THE
POSSIBILITY OF VIOLENCE. VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY INTERVENED AND
GUARANTEED WATER ABILITIES. MEANWHILE AGRICULTURE WAS STILL
DAMAGED. FAMILIES SAW MAJOR LOSSES AND SOME HAD TO SELL THEIR
FARMS. THERE WERE NO REAL WINNERS. AT THE TIME MANY PEOPLE
THOUGHT THESE ISSUES WERE INL — INTRACTABLE, THAT ARGUMENTS
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AND LAWSUITS WOULD CONTINUE INTERMINABLY PERHAPS FOR
GENERATIONS TO COME. BUT A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO A GROUP OF
LEADERS IN THE COMMUNITY HAD THE BOLDNESS TO START RETHINKING
HOW THEY FRAMED THEIR QUEST FOR WATER AND THE WATER WARS. THEIR
BRIEFING TO ME WAS ONE OF THE FIRST BRIEFINGS I RECEIVED AS A
U.S. SENATOR, AND I WAS SURPRISED, SURPRISED TO HEAR FROM
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INDIVIDUALS REPRESENTING PARTS OF THE COMMUNITY THAT HAD OFTEN
BEEN BITTER ENEMIES TOGETHER, AND THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT
SITTING DOWN AND HAMMERING OUT A DIFFERENT VISION FOR THE
FUTURE TO REPLACE THE LOSE-LOSE WATER BATTLES OF THE PAST WITH
SOMETHING DIFFERENT. GREATER RELIABILITY OF WATER FOR FARMERS
AND RANCHERS AND PROTECTION FOR THE TRIBES OF THEIR FISHING
RIGHTS AND BETTER HEALTH FOR THE STREAM. LEADERS FROM MANY
DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COMMUNITY SITTING DOWN TOGETHER BECAUSE,
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AS THEY SAID TO ME, YOU KNOW, SENATOR, THE ONLY FOLKS WHO ARE
WINNING RIGHT NOW ARE THE LAWYERS. AND THEY WANTED TO CHANGE
THAT. I WAS SKEPTICAL THAT GROUPS THAT HAD BATTLED FOR SO LONG
COULD SIT DOWN AND WORK OUT AN AGREEMENT. AS WE SAY IN THE
WEST, WHISKEY, THAT’S FOR DRINKING. AND WATER, THAT’S FOR
FIGHTING. BUT THESE FOLKS SAID WE ARE GOING TO PURSUE A
DIFFERENT PATH. AND I PLEDGED THAT IF THEY WERE ABLE TO DEVELOP
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A SOLUTION, I WOULD DO EVERYTHING I COULD AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
TO HELP IMPLEMENT IT. WHILE THEY DEFIED THE EXPECTATION BY
COMING UP WITH A REMARKABLE PLAN, THEY SOLVED AN ARRAY OF
COMPLEX PROBLEMS. THE IRRIGATORS COMMIT TO REDUCING THE TOTAL
AMOUNT OF WATER THEY TAKE FROM THE RIVER THROUGH A VARIETY OF
CONSERVATION PRACTICES. THE WORKING COLLABORATIVE WITH THE
COMMUNITY AND THE TRIBES TO RESTORE HABITAT. IN EXCHANGE, THEY
GET CERTAINTY AND PREDICTABILITY FOR GUARANTEED AMOUNTS OF
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WATER. THE TRIBES AND CONSERVATION GROUPS AND FISHING
ORGANIZATIONS AGREE TO STOP CHALLENGING THESE IRRIGATORS’ WATER
ALLOCATIONS. IN EXCHANGE THEY GET A COMMUNITY PARTNERING TO
RESTORE NATURAL RESOURCES THAT ARE OF CULTURAL, ECONOMIC
IMPORTANCE TO THE TRIBE, AND TO HELP THEM REACQUIRE SOME OF THE
LAND THEY LOST 50 YEARS AGO. COMPLEMENTING ALL OF THIS AND
AUGMENTING THE NATURAL RESORCERESS TOARGS IS A PLAN TO
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REFOURANTS KUWAITED DAMS AND OPEN — FOUR ANTIQUATED DAMS AND
OPEN UP NEW ONES FOR FISH. THE PRIVATE UTILITIES THAT OWNS
THESE DAMS AGREES THAT THE BEST BUSINESS DECISION TO REMOVE
THESE DAMS. SO THIS IS A WIN-WIN SITUATION, OR ACTUALLY A
WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN SITUATION. SO LET ME GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF THIS IN
TERMS OF WATER LOOKED AT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE
AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY. HERE WE HAVE IN THE VARIETY OF YEARS
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2010 DOWN THROUGH 2014 WHAT THE ACTUAL DELIVERIES WERE IN ACRE
FEET, THOUSANDS OF ACRE FEET, 189,000 ACRES FEET AND WHAT THEY
WOULD HAVE RECEIVED UNDER THE SETTLEMENT, SUBSTANTIALLY MORE.
SUBSTANTIALLY MORE IN 2011, SUBSTANTIALLY MORE IN 2013. SO THIS
ALSO PROVIDES MORE WATER FOR THE REFUGE. AND WE CAN SEE A
CHANGE OF POSITIVE WATER FOR THE REFUGE AS WELL. SO THIS IS WHY
EVERYONE’S COMING TO THE TABLE FINDING A PATH THAT WORKS BETTER
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DURING DIFFICULT TIMES FOR ALL OF THE MAJOR GOALS OF WATER
MANAGEMENT IN THE REGION. THE DEAL IS A LIFELINE FOR FARMING
AND FOR RANCHING. TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ADDITIONAL ACRE FEET
ADDED, AND IN SOME CASES 100,000 ADDITIONAL ACRE FEET OF WATER
IN SOME YEARS. AT THE SAME TIME STREAM FLOWS FOR FISH REMOVING
OBSTACLES TO MIGRATION OF THE FISH, IMPROVING HABITAT, IT’S
REALLY TRULY A REMARKABLE DEAL, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS NOT ONLY
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DEVELOPED A VISIONARY AGREEMENT, BUT THEY REMAIN DEDICATED TO
THIS AGREEMENT DURING SOME DIFFICULT DROUGHT YEARS, 2010 AND
2013 AND LOW WATER IN 2014. SO THEY COULD HAVE BEEN SHATTERED.
THE COALITION COULD HAVE BEEN BLOWN UP BY THESE DIFFICULT
DROUGHT YEARS, BUT INSTEAD THEY VIEWED IT AS REINFORCING WHY
THEY NEEDED TO COME TO AN AGREEMENT TO SAVE THE RANCHING AND
THE FARMING AND IMPROVE THE FISH AND RESTORE IMPORTANT
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PROVISIONS FOR THE TRIBES. THEY STAYED WORKING TOGETHER WHILE
WE HERE IN CONGRESS HAVE NOT ACTED. AND IN ADDITION, THEY
WORKED ON AN ADDITIONAL AGREEMENT TO BRING IN ADDITIONAL
RANCHERS FROM THE UPPER BASIN INTO THE AGREEMENT, AND THAT
WORKED AS WELL. THEY WORKED TO DRAMATICALLY REDUCE THE COST OF
HABITAT RESTORATION INVESTMENTS AT THAT THE ORIGINAL PLAN
CALLED FOR. THEY DRAFTED A BILL WITH NO NEW SPENDING. SO THE
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ENTIRE AGREEMENT WAS CHALLENGED BY THE LITIGATION OVER WATER
RIGHTS IN THAT THE ADJUDICATION OF THESE WATER RIGHTS WAS
FINALLY COMPLETED AND, FOR THE MOST PART, THE KLAMATH TRIBES
WERE AWARDED WATER RIGHTS TO TIME IN MEMORIAL. THAT IS A
POWERFUL, POWERFUL
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{ 2014/12/16 TIME: 12-45 , Tue. 113th SENATE, SECOND SESSION}
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{ NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT OF THE SENATE PROCEEDINGS.}

THIS ENORMOUS CONTROL OVER WATER RIGHTS AND SAID, THE AGREEMENT
HASN’T BEEN IMPLEMENTED. WE’RE WALKING AWAY, AND WE’RE GOING TO
USE THESE WATER RIGHTS WITH MAXIMUM LEVERAGE. BUT THEY HAD
CREATED PARTNERSHIPS. THEY HAD PLEDGED TO WORK TOGETHER AS ALL
OF THESE GROUPS HAD, ADVOCATING NOT JUST FOR THEMSELVES BUT FOR
THE COLLECTIVE FUTURE OF THE COMMUNITY AND THE COLLECTIVE
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STAKEHOLDERS. AND, QUITE FRANKLY, THIS IS A REMARKABLE,
REMARKABLE DEVELOPMENT WHAT WAS HAPPENED. ALL OF THE
STAKEHOLDER LEADERS STICKING TOGETHER. CONGRESS IS KEY,
HOWEVER, TO PASSING LEGISLATION THAT IMPLEMENTS THE PROVISIONS
OF THIS PLAN. IT IS TIME FOR CONGRESS TO ACT. THE SENATE DID
ITS WORK. THE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE HELD
HEARINGS UNDER THE LEADERSHIP, FIRST, OF SENATOR WYDEN AND
SENATOR MURKOWSKI, AND THEN UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF SENATORS
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LANDRIEU AND SENATOR MURKOWSKI. SENATOR MURKOWSKI, SENATOR
WYDEN AND I WERE ABLE TO NEGOTIATE BIPARTISAN REVISIONS OF THE
BILL. WE MODIFIED FEDERAL AUTHORITY RELATED TO DAM REMOVAL,
REQUIRING GOVERNORS TO SIGN OFF AND GIVING CONGRESS A ONE-YEAR
PERIOD TO TAKE OUT A PROVISION. THE ENERGY AND NATURAL
RESOURCES COMMITTEE VOTED THE BILL OUT OF COMMITTEE ON A
BIPARTISAN BASIS. AND THE COMMITTEE LEADERS HAVE GONE TO WORK
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GIVING AN EVEN BROADER STATEMENT OF SUPPORT. THE KLAMATH
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, THE CHAM AGHT COUNTY FARM BILL, THE CHAM
AGHT COUNTY CATTLE MEN’S ASSOCIATION HAVE ENDORSED THE BILL.
THE KLAMATH FALLS CITY COUNCIL AND THE OREGON WATER RESOURCES
CONGRESS HAS ENDORSED THE BILL. THE SENATE HAS BEEN READY TO

ACT. BUT THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HAS NOT. AND SO HERE
WE ARE IN THE LAST DAYS OF THIS CONGRESS UNABLE TO COMPLETE
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THIS BILL. SO TODAY I AM CALLING UPON OUR LEADERS IN THE HOUSE
AND IN THE SENATE TO WORK TOGETHER TO MAKE THIS AN ITEM OF
IMMEDIATE ACTION WHEN WE START OUR NEW SESSION IN JANUARY. THE
TRIBE HAS HELD BACK ON ENFORCING ITS WATER RIGHTS. EACH OF THE
STAKEHOLDERS HAVE STAYED TOGETHER SAYING THEY WERE GOING TO
SUPPORT THE MULTIPLE PROVISIONS FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR
PARTNERS. BUT THAT CANNOT LAST FOREVER. CONGRESS HAS TO ACT TO
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SEAL THE DEAL. WITHOUT COOPERATION, THIS VISION, SO CAREFULLY,
DILIGENTLY, AND PAINFULLY CONSTRUCTED OVER YEARS OF INVOLVEMENT
BY COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS, WILL FALL APART. WHAT THAT WILL DO
IS PUT THE ENTIRE FARMING AND RANCHING COMMUNITY IN GREAT
JEOPARDY. WE COULD SEE HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES LOSE THEIR WATER IN
A MATTER OF MONTHS DUE TO CONGRESS’ FAILURE TO ACT. THIS
COMMUNITY HAS DONE EVERYTHING RIGHT. THEY PUT ASIDE
LONGSTANDING TENSIONS, LONG-STANDING CONFLICTS. THEY SET DOWN,
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AND THEY SET DOWN TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO WORK OUT
THESE COMPLICATED PROVISIONS. THEY SOUGHT THE HELP OF THE
INTERIOR DEPARTMENT, WHICH CAME AND SIGNED OFF ON THE
AGREEMENT. THEY SOUGHT THE STATE GOVERNMENT AND THE GOVERNOR TO
COME AND SIGN OFF ON THE AGREEMENTS. THEY SOLICITED THE LOCAL
SUPPORT. THEY PUT ASIDE DAMAGING RHETORIC DURING TIMES OF
INTENSE DROUGHT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, AND THEY HUNG
TOGETHER. THEY HAVE DONE EVERYTHING WE COULD HAVE EVER ASKED A
GROUP TO DO TO PREPARE FOR THIS LEGISLATION TO BE PASSED. AND
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YET IT HAS NOT BEEN PASSED BECAUSE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
HAS NOT BEEN READY TO ACT. WE MUST NOT LET THIS OPPORTUNITY
ESCAPE. WE MUST COME BACK IN JANUARY WITH SUPPORT FROM THE
SENATE AND FROM THE HOUSE AND COMPLETE THIS DEAL. THIS
OPPORTUNITY MIGHT NOT COME AGAIN. MADAM PRESIDENT, I ASK MY
COLLEAGUES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE TO RECOGNIZE THAT WHEN IN
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A REGION GREAT WORK HAS BEEN DONE TO RESOLVE A LONG-STANDING
CONFLICT AND THEY NEED CONGRESS TO STEP IN AND SEAL THE DEAL,
MAKE THE AGREEMENT REAL, IMPLEMENT THE AGREEMENT, THAT WE MUST
GIVE IT THE UTMOST ATTENTION AND HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR THE
HEALTH OF THE STREAM, FOR THE WELFARE OF THE TRIBES, FOR THE
SUCCESS OF THE FARMING COMMUNITY, FOR THE CONDITION OF THE
CONDITIONS THAT MAKE RANCHING A VITAL COMPONENT OF THE KLAMATH
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BASENING. FOR ALL OF THESE REASONS. SO I CERTAINLY PLEDGE TO
COME BACK AND WORK TOWARDS THAT END AND LOOK FORWARD FOR US
EARLY NEXT YEAR TO NOT BE HERE ON THE FLOOR LAMENTING THE FACT
THAT WE HAVE FAILED TO COMPLETE THIS AGREEMENT BUT TO BE HERE
THANKING ALL OF THOSE WHO CAME TOGETHER TO SEIZE THIS CRITICAL
OPPORTUNITY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MADAM PRESIDENT.


Martina McLennan
Press Secretary
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
(202) 224-3753