secretary nixes water agreement: Tribes, Upper Basin irrigators
Upper Basin irrigators react
The first five people to sign the Upper Klamath
Basin Comprehensive Agreement on April 18, 2014, at Collier
Memorial State Park were (from left to right) Garret Roseberry,
Roger Nicholson, Gov. John Kitzhaber, Don Gentry and Becky
Hyde. The agreement was formally dissolved Dec. 28.
agreement created in 2014 between the Klamath Tribes and
Upper Basin landowners that was contingent on the former
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement has dissolved.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued a negative
notice in the Federal Register, effective Dec. 28, for the
Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA),
essentially the final step in terminating the comprehensive
agreement between Upper Basin irrigators and land owners and
the Klamath Tribes.
phoned Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry on Dec. 21 to let
him know of the pending action, an outcome the Tribes have
been pursuing since a request was first made to the U.S.
Department of Interior in January 2016. The Tribes
reiterated the request in April and September 2017.
Tribes appreciate the Secretary's work in reaching this
decision, in particular the collaborative efforts of
Interior's Alan Mikkelsen meeting with the Klamath Tribes
and other stakeholders in the Basin, and for hearing the
Tribes' concerns and ultimately issuing the Notice," said
Gentry, in a news release.
UKBCA addressed the needs of water users in the Klamath
Basin outside of the Klamath Project, according to the
negative notice. The agreement also included a commitment by
the Tribes to limit enforcement of their water rights so
long as other parties met certain “milestones,” which went
unmet in 2017 and were enforced by Oregon Water Resources,
according to the negative notice.
legislation was passed by Congress before Dec. 31, 2015, and
the KBRA expired on its own terms,” Zinke said in the
statement of findings of the notice.
fact alone means I will not be able to issue an affirmative
notice, and warrants issue of a negative notice.”
legislation was passed by Congress that would have enacted
provisions for water usage or riparian protection programs
under the UKBCA, the statement read.
not aware of any pending legislation that would do so in the
foreseeable future,” Zinke said in the findings.
addition, the negative notice outlines other unmet
conditions in the UKBCA, including a required appropriation
of federal funds to provide an economic development fund for
the Tribes, as well as funding to enable the Joint
Management Entity and Landowner Entity to carry out their
responsibilities under the UKBCA.
funds have not been appropriated and I am not aware of any
plans to provide this funding in the forseeable future,”
Zinke wrote in the findings.
Tribes 'thankful' of outcome
expressed thankfulness at the outcome of a process that has
spanned nearly two years, that included failed mediated
talks with landowners to seek a solution.
gone through the process of meet and confer and mediation,
and nothing resulted from that that would keep the agreement
in place,” Gentry said.
believe that it was just a formality that needed to be done
to terminate the agreement. It was never intended to be a
stand-alone agreement,” Gentry added. “The Upper Basin
agreement couldn't be implemented without successful
legislation – the KBRA – because we know the Upper Basin
agreement was built out of that."
plans to meet with members of the Tribal community and the
Tribal Council to find direction going forward.
not sure what the next steps are,” Gentry said. “We'll be
communicating with our members in the very near future, and
discussing the current situation with the agreements we
“Obviously our goal is to restore our treaty fisheries that
have been lost to agriculture – the salmon, steelhead,
suckers,” Gentry said. “And to provide for other treaty
“That's a focus of what our water rights are for and the
focus of our tribal goals so that hasn't changed,” Gentry
asked about the possibility of returning to negotiations
with irrigators, Gentry said Tribal members will discuss the
really not sure what opportunities are there,” Gentry said.
“I think it's pretty clear our members don't want to do what
we did the last time, expend so much time and resources only
to end up with an agreement, and legislation that didn't
move. Our members would really want to be assured that there
were some opportunities and that it would be worthwhile to
engage. At this point, I'm not sure what our tribal members'
interest is. Those are the things that we want to be talking
to (tribal) members about.”
Landowners in the Upper Klamath Basin are looking at the
action as a way to move forward, and hope the outcome is an
opportunity to return to the negotiating table with the
Tribes toward a settlement of some kind.
landowners in the Upper Klamath Basin are disappointed that
an agreement did not move forward, but we acknowledge the
termination and hope that it clears a path for renewed
conversations with the Klamath Tribes,” according to a
statement issued by Randall Kizer, president of the
Landowners Entity in the Upper Basin.
look forward to finding a long-term solution that creates
economic stability for everyone in the Klamath Basin.”
is the step that we needed to take to get something going
again,” Kizer said later Tuesday afternoon.
hope that this paves the way for more talks and helping
everybody get what they want out of this so we get the Upper
Basin back to running again,” Kizer added.
expressed the need for more time before he made additional
comments regarding the notice.
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