On May 21, 2014 Senator Ron Wyden introduced the Klamath Water Recover and Economic Restoration Act. The legislation would implement the terms of the three Klamath Restoration Agreements: the Klamath Basin Restoration Act, Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, and Upper Basin Comprehensive Agreement.
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer.
In respnse to Senator Wyden's leadership in establishing a brighter economic and environmental future for all Klamath Basin residents, parties to the Agreements issued the following statement:
“We thank Senator Ron Wyden for working tirelessly to help us find a lasting solution to our water sharing challenges in the Klamath Basin. We are hopeful that this legislation will finally bring an end to more than a century of challenging times in our community. People came together from all corners of the basin to hammer out these agreements, and the give and take has not always been easy. We are grateful to Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer for sponsoring this important legislation. Similarly, Governor Kitzhaber and other leaders who have supported our local process have given all basin residents a reason to hope for a brighter future here for our children, our grandchildren, and the fish and wildlife that rely on this region’s natural resources for survival.”
This statement was released on behalf of:
Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR)
Klamath Water Users Association
The Nature Conservancy
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA)
Salmon River Restoration Council
Upper Klamath Water Users
On March 5, 2014, the Klamath Tribes, United States, Oregon, and Upper Basin farmers and ranchers released a draft settlement agreement that could pave the way for stem to stern restoration of the entire Klamath Basin through implementation of three Klamath Agreements. The proposed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBA) defines the means to achieve water savings described in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and would be largely funded by the KBRA. These are again linked to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) which specifies means to remove the lower four Klamath dams.
Why is another Agreement Necessary?
Already, Klamath communities have developed two interrelated agreements - the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). The KHSA describes the pathway to achieve removal of the lower four Klamath River dams; the KBRA describes the resolution of the prolonged water war between farmers and ranchers on the United States' Klamath Irrigation Project and fish dependent communities downstream. These Agreements were signed by over 45 Klamath Basin parties including dam owner PacifiCorp. Full implementation of these Agreements require congressional action and Congressmen Ron Wyden has pledged to introduce legislation later this year.
Further upstream of the Klamath Irrigation Project there are many more farming and ranching communities that use Klamath watershed water, many of whom were not involved in the KHSA and KBRA negotiations. However, these landowners have a stake in the issue which became very apparent last year when the Klamath Tribes were granted senior water rights for large portions of the Upper Basin. This led to large scale water shut offs necessary to protect Klamath Tribal fisheries but left over 100,000 cattle without water.
Last year, after a congressional hearing on these issues, Senators Wyden and Merkley, Congressman Greg Walden, and Governor Kitzhaber created a Legislative Task Force made up of representatives from a wide range of Klamath Basin communities. They acknowledged the need for legislation to solve Klamath Basin water issues and challenged the Task Force to, among other things, find a way to solve water crisis currently being experienced by Upper Basin irrigators upstream of the federal Klamath Irrigation Project. The UKBA does just that.
Task Force Recommends Cost Reductions, Expansion of KBRA Power Program, and Water Sharing Plan for Upper Basin
Last Fall, Senator Wyden along with Senator Merkely, Congressman Walden, and Governor Kitzhaber formed the Klamath Basin Task Force. The Task Force was made up of representatives from a wide range of Klamath Basin interests including Tribes, irrigators, fishermen, Klamath dam owner PacifiCorp, and conservationists. The Taks Force's mission was threefold: 1) reduce the cost of implementing the Klamath Agreements, 2) resolve the water shortages of the Upper Klamath Basin (the areas upstream of Upper Klamath Lake), and 3) identify a way to enable Off-Project farmers and the wildlife refuges to access the same lower-cost federal power available to On-Project irrigators through the KBRA.
The Karuk, Klamath, and Yurok people have lived along the banks of the Klamath River since time immemorial. The river and surrounding forests have long sustained the people with an abundance of fish, game, acorns and more. Over time, the Klamath's rich natural resources have steeply declined to the point that the Tribes can no longer sustain themselves.
At the same time, new communities and economies have grown to depend on the Klamath's resources. In recent years, bitter conflicts have emerged between Tribal, agricultural, and commercial fishing communities. For many years neighboring communities challenged one another's right to live and prosper in the Klamath Basin.
The pending Klamath Restoration Agreements mark a change to this approach and seek to reverse this trend.
We hope the information on this site helps others understand why these Agreements represent the best opportunity available to not only remove dams, but to restore the river while providing economic security to the Klamath's struggling rural economies.
Located along the California-Oregon border, the Klamath is a unique River Basin home to many diverse species of wildlife, as well as economically and culturally diverse rural communities. The Klamath River Basin is huge. Ecompassing over 12,000 square miles the Klamath River Basin is about the size of the state of Maryland. The Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath Tribes still harvest salmon and c'wam from the river for cultural and subsistence purposes, family farmers and ranchers use the river for irrigation of diverse crops, and coastal commercial fishing families depend on Klamath salmon to earn their living.
For many years, these competing demands have led to uncertainty for all Klamath communities as dwindling fish runs and too many demands on limited amounts of water led groups to fight against one another's interests. Fishing closures, fish kills, and irrigation shut-offs have resulted in a rotating crisis for Klamath communities.(video about Klamath Crisis). In an effort to solve the crisis and provide for a more secure future for all the Basin's residents, Klamath Basin stakeholders have produced two companion agreements that together represent a roadmap for the largest river restoration effort in US History while remaining sensitive to local economic needs.
The Agreements were developed as an alternative to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's relicensing of Pacificorp's Klamath dams but encompass issues beyond deam removal. Together the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydoelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) describe the removal of four large dams,a plan to balance water use in the Klamath Basin, and economic stability for all of the Klamath's diverse rural economies.
Each Tribe is culturally unique yet the Tribes have worked collaboratively in recent years on a common vision -- reconnecting and restoring the Klamath River. It is with this spirit of collaboration and common purpose that the Tribes along with allies such as the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and a variety of conservation groups began laying the groundwork for basin-wide restoration and dam removal in the late 1990s.
Although the state of the Klamath's fisheries had been in decline for decades, three horrific events culminated in a surprising effort of inter-community collaboration. In 2001, for the first time in the history of the Klamath Irrigation Project, irrigators experienced a water shut off to protect recently ESA listed coho salmon and sucker fish. This left crops to wither and die in the fields and farm families to protest and litigate. In 2002, with the drought persisting, farmers were allowed to irrigate and a massive fish kill occurred leaving tens of thousands of migrating adult salmon dead in the lower Klamath. In 2006, low returns of Klamath salmon led to the near total shut down of the West Coast salmon fishery, leaving family fishermen without a way to make a living.
In the midst of this rotating crisis, the Klamath dams' operational license expired requiring dam owner PacifiCorp to go through a detailed relicensing process. The three groups suffering either directly or indirectly from the steep decline in fish populations slowly realized that the dam relicensing provided an opportunity to craft a settlement that could balance water use, restore habitat, and put Klamath fisheries on the road to recovery.
Over the next several years, representatives from tribes, fishermen, irrigators, conservation groups, as well as local, state, and federal agencies, worked diligently on the details of such a plan. A major breakthrough came in 2007 when, after years of resistance, a new management team at PacifiCorp agreed to join settlement discussions, creating the opportunity to discuss terms for dam removal - a fundamental step in fisheries restoration.
The product of these collaborative efforts are two agreements - the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). If implemented, these agreements will bring about the most comprehensive river basin restoration effort in US history and serve as a model for resolving contentious struggles over resources in diverse rural communties. We invite you to support our efforts!