Two Northern California American
Indian tribes and a group of
irrigators are trying to replace
long-standing hostilities with a
spirit of cooperation aimed at
restoring the Klamath River.
The Yurok and Karuk tribes, and
the Klamath Water Users Association
released a statement Tuesday
agreeing that lawsuits and fights in
the media haven't panned out in
”We all have had our victories
and losses in the legal and
administrative battles,” the
statement reads. “Yet no one is
better off. We think there is a
The statement was signed by Yurok
Tribe Chairman Howard McConnell,
Karuk Vice Chairman Leaf Hillman and
Klamath Water Users Association
Executive Director Greg Addington.
The tribes and irrigators have been
at odds for years, using different
ends of the river for different
A 200,000-acre federal project on
the central California-Oregon border
uses water from Upper Klamath Lake
to irrigate hay, potatoes and grain.
The Yuroks and Karuk fish for salmon
in the lower and middle river.
In 2001, the federal government
shut off water to most of the
project in an effort to save water
for threatened coho salmon in the
river, and endangered suckers in the
lake. That sparked months of
protest. The next year, the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation crimped water
for fish, and up to 68,000 salmon
died in the river.
Tensions have remained high. But
between the groups are a set of
hydroelectric dams owned by
Pacificorp that are undergoing a license renewal
process. Tribes, irrigators and
environmental groups have been
involved in confidential settlement
talks that parallel the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission
”It is no secret that major
concerns for water users are
affordable power and water
certainty,” the statement reads. “It
is no secret that the tribes want
considerable improvements in their
fisheries and in fact want dams
removed. These are all subjects with
tremendous implications for the
people who live in this basin. We
are listening to each other. The
tribes do not want to see Upper
Basin irrigators go out of business.
The irrigators share the tribes'
goals of increased fish population
and understand that it is in
everyone's interest to improve
habitat and restore historical
The statement reads that the
debate is not about farms versus
fish, but about farms and fish. The
cooperation between the groups could
add political weight to an argument
to decommission or remove the dams.
The partnership does not mean
there have been agreements, the
statement reads, but rather a new
effort to work together.