Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/16/08
Klamath Basin irrigators would get reliable water f lows and stable power rates and the Klamath Tribes would get 90,000 acres of private forestland under a proposed agreement released Tuesday.
The Klamath Water Settlement, released Tuesday, would cost $ 960 million over 10 years and is contingent on a separate deal with Portland-based PacifiCorp to dismantle four dams — the Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2. Dam removal would restore historic salmon runs on the Klamath River.
Farmers, fishermen, tribes along the Klamath River and its tributaries as well as environmental representatives released the 256-page agreement Tuesday after more than two years of negotiations.
Work to do
But those involved say there is work to be done. Unless PacifiCorp consents to remove the four dams at an estimated cost of $120 million, the agreement will fall apart. Meetings with the power company are planned in coming weeks.
“Now the ball is in PacifiCorp’s court,” said Glenn Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
Events such as the 2001 irrigation shutoff in the Klamath Basin and 2002 Klamath River fish die-off led stakeholders to determine approaches to managing the river’s resources needed to change if the communities along it were to survive.
Representatives of those communities, from the irrigators and tribes around Upper Klamath Lake to the fishermen living at the mouth of the river, have been meeting in Redding, Calif., for the past two years to negotiate an agreement for everyone’s benefit.
The agreement seeks to redefine commitments of water from the watershed. Rather than a pecking order of what interests have priority over others for the resource, it establishes limits that those involved can depend on.
Klamath Project irrigators would be able to depend on a set water allotment each year, depending on water supply.
Irrigators may have to reduce their allotment of water from Upper Klamath Lake by up to 100,000 acre feet in the driest years and use groundwater or field idling to fulfill needs, but in the wettest years they would receive their full allotment of water.
Off-project irrigators would need to give up about 30,000 acre-feet of water rights to contribute to flows into Upper Klamath Lake. More than 100,000 acre-feet of storage will be added to the lake with the breaching of several levees.
The agreement sets a power rate of three cents per kilowatt-hour for all irrigators. Any dispute over water rights between the Klamath Tribes and project irrigators would be eliminated.
All the stakeholders also agree to support the Klamath Tribes’ efforts to acquire a 90,000-acre piece of forestland owned by Fidelity National known as the Mazama Tree Farm.
Those involved in the agreement said that all involved had to compromise and sacrifice to make the agreement possible. While difficult and complex at times, it was necessary to make sure all involved benefited.
Luther Horsely, president of Klamath Water Users Association, said his organization stood behind other organizations in their call to PacifiCorp to remove their four dams on the Klamath River after the power company deemed that irrigators no longer contributed to its power generation activities.
Likewise, others said they recognized that all communities along the river and its tributaries have legitimate needs that need to be met.
“I think what we learned is that there’s going to be farming in the Basin and the farmers learned there’s going to be tribes and fishermen in the Basin,” said Craig Tucker of the Karuk Tribe.
Snags could still hang up the proposed agreement. Many of those involved in the settlement talks are recommending support from their constituencies, but others, such as The Resource Conservancy and many off-project irrigators, are rallying against it.
It was the willingness of former adversaries to meet and hear each other out that led to the agreement.
“This is a victory for irrigated agriculture, a success for the refuges and a win for fish,” said Greg Addington, KWUA executive director.
They acknowledged that there are those who are opposed to the agreement and hope that they and all others affected will carefully consider the document before making a final judgment.
“The single most important thing for all involved is civility,” said Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited.