The C Flume Debacle
The most glaring symbol of the Klamath Irrigation District’s Board of Directors’ extreme faction is the mishandling of replacing the C Canal Flume contract process. Listening to outside forces like New York City attorney Lawrence Kogan rather than their patrons and ignoring their own votes, their delaying tactics seriously threatened water supplies of C Flume users and raised public safety concerns voiced by the Klamath County School District ( read the letter: KCSD Superintendent’s Letter to KID Board).
KID is an irrigation district that serves hundreds of family farms spread over approximately 42,000 acres in Southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin, a region of tremendous agronomic diversity, which produces beef and dairy cattle, potatoes, grains, mint, onions, horseradish, and alfalfa. All of which are dependent on a supply of water from the district, relying on the decisions of the Board of Directors in the operation of the district. The C Canal is the critical supply artery that serves most of this acreage. One of the biggest problems faced by western irrigators is the sad state of our aging water infrastructure. With temporary braces erected all over the C Flume to help stop leaks and provide temporary structural stability, the 100-year-old concrete flume section of the C Canal is no exception.
Earlier this year, in what was a genuine moment of solidarity for Basin irrigators, over 95 percent of the district’s patrons voted in favor of accepting a low-interest federal loan to replace the C Flume with an underground, gravity-fed pipe system. When the Board of Directors voted, all five (including Board Chairman Cheyne) voted in favor of the $7.5 million loan from the Bureau of Reclamation to move forward with the repairs.
And then, along came Kogan, who was retained specifically to advise on the C Canal flume contract. When it came time to sign the paperwork with the contractor to replace the flume, the majority faction of the Board of Directors changed course and held up signing the finalized paperwork by avoiding two public board meetings, including an emergency meeting. Meanwhile, the C Flume continued to deteriorate, jeopardizing Henley schools, the farms serviced by the C Canal, the homes near the flume and the irrigation districts dependent upon it for water deliveries. Read the two letters – and the liability issues mentioned in them: SID’s Letter to KID and KBID’s Letter to KID.
In the end, Chairman Cheyne reluctantly signed the paperwork, but only after KID patrons balked and after R&G Excavating, the firm hired to oversee replacement, graciously extended the acceptance deadline.
Kogan and the new KID board majority WASTED nearly four months and tens of thousands of dollars raising speculative arguments regarding the C Flume contract, a collaborative process that had been underway for several years prior to his arrival. Read the perspective of KID board minority members Dave Cacka and Greg Carleton, both of whom Mr. Kogan went out his way to avoid during this process.
By the time Chairman Cheyne finally signed the contract in early July, all of Mr. Kogan’s time and arguments raised made absolutely no difference except to the depletion of KID’s legal budget and animosity and bruised relations with the community and farmers within the Klamath Project. Not one word of the contract signed by Chairman Cheyne had been changed as a result of the $128,500.00 in KID funds Cheyne, Knoll, and Smith gave to Kogan to negotiate that same contract.