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North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense

Klamath Tribes Work with Neighbors to Solve Water Crisis
by Klamath Tribes negotiating team
Tuesday Jan 15th, 2008 3:12 PM
“Putting the Basin Back Together” is Tribes’ goal;
Agreement with PacifiCorp is final hurdle.
Chiloquin, Ore. -- The Klamath Tribes announced today that they are among the Klamath Basin water interests considering whether to approve the recently unveiled Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. If the Tribes’ General Council and other stakeholders ratify the agreement, it could usher in a new era of water and resource management to the Basin and end years of conflict.

“The Klamath Tribes have devoted years of effort to this agreement and have worked hard to make it the best it can be for our members while respecting the legitimate needs of others in the Basin,” said Tribal Chairman Joe Kirk. “We have been working hard to put the Klamath Basin back together again. We look forward to a thorough and careful review of what the negotiating group has brought us.”

The Tribes’ own negotiating team has recommended approval of the agreement to the Tribal Government. The Tribal Council recently endorsed the agreement conditionally, depending on an appropriate settlement with PacifiCorp regarding removal of dams from the Klamath River and related factors.

“As always, final decisions of this magnitude are reserved for our General Council,” Kirk said. The General Council is the main decision-making body for the Tribes, composed of all tribal members over 18 years of age. The Tribes are now scheduling meetings for the General Council’s review of the agreement.

Jeff Mitchell, a Tribal Councilman active on the Klamath Tribes’ negotiating team, encouraged acceptance of the agreement. “This is a rare opportunity to restore fish that were guaranteed to us in the Treaty of 1864 but have been lost since PacifiCorp’s dams went in early last century,” he said. “Removing the dams and stabilizing the water management situation in the Basin is essential for all stakeholders and the environment.”

The agreement would secure more water for fish and improve fish habitat. It would also reduce overall agricultural diversions from Basin streams and lakes, but provide much more reliable water supplies for Basin agriculture. It would also provide for Tribal development of forestry-based economic enterprises on 90,000 acres of private forestland in northern Klamath County that would come into Tribal ownership under the agreement.

Effectively putting the Basin back together again depends on PacifiCorp becoming a partner in the restoration. PacifiCorp is the Portland-based utility that owns the Klamath dams. It is a subsidiary of Mid-American Energy Holdings Company which in turn is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The Tribes have been urging PacifiCorp to give up the dams, which provide very little energy and no water supply for agriculture, and have kept salmon from returning to the Tribes’ homeland in the Upper Basin for 90 years.

The case for dam removal was strengthened recently by economic reports from state and federal energy agencies that concluded dam removal is cheaper for PacifiCorp’s customers than financing the upgrades needed to comply with federal mandates for fish ladders.

“The dams are costing ratepayers money and are destroying extremely valuable salmon runs,” Mitchell said. “PacifiCorp’s cooperation makes sense for everyone involved. We call on the company to help us solve one of the West’s most complex and bitter water wars.”

For more information contact the Klamath Tribes’ negotiating team through Jeff Mitchell at (541) 891-5971 or Bud Ullman at (541) 783-3081, or visit http://www.klamathtribes.org.

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