The Klamath Tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Governor Kitzhaber, Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, and Upper Klamath Basin irrigators announce proposed agreement on water and natural resource management issues
Klamath Falls, OR — The Klamath Tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, and Upper Klamath Basin irrigators announced today that they have completed negotiations on the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement. The proposed Agreement will now go to the Klamath Tribes' General Council for approval and to irrigators for their endorsement.
Funding for restoration projects in the Agreement will come largely through the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), signed in 2010. The overall cost of the Upper Basin settlement agreement and the Klamath Agreements of 2010 is approximately $545 million, a significant reduction from the original cost of the Klamath Agreements, which was estimated to cost $1 billion.
The new Agreement also resolves water right disputes that were not addressed in the KBRA. The most senior water rights above Upper Klamath Lake are held by the Klamath Tribes. Full exercise of those rights would preclude irrigation in many years. Under the proposed Agreement, the Klamath Tribes conditionally agree to share in times of shortages, limiting regulation to specified in-stream flows, and allowing some water for water rights holders with rights junior to the Klamath Tribes. In exchange, the Tribes will receive active landowner involvement in riparian restoration, resolution of ongoing water litigation, and economic development funding to create employment opportunities and aid in the exercise of tribal cultural rights.
Don Gentry, Chairman of Klamath Tribes, said, “I am very pleased with the Klamath Tribal Council's support of the Proposed Agreement. If approved, we will see an increase in water flows, improved habitat for current and future fish populations, and economic opportunities for our Tribe and Tribal members. It will help us restore our homeland and honor the Treaty our ancestors signed 150 years ago.”
Cattle rancher Roger Nicholson said the benefits will be felt across the region. "Settlement will allow the social and economic healing of the agricultural and Tribal community, and once again establish a united community."
Becky Hyde, rancher and board member of the Upper Klamath Basin Water Users, said, "We look forward to sharing the agreement's details with our neighbors in the upper basin and the broader community. For the first time in decades, there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
The full Agreement and an agreement summary are available here.