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Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
Steve Kadel and Ty Beaver, K-Falls Herald & News
January 16, 2008

Representatives of 26 organizations met for more than two years to reach consensus on the water settlement. Those stakeholders include county, state and federal governments; tribes; irrigators; environmentalists; and fishing interests.

Stakeholders assigned the goals of the agreement into three headings:

Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2 dams will be removed from the Klamath River to provide ocean and river fish harvest opportunities throughout the Klamath Basin.

Reliable water and power supplies will be established to sustain agriculture, communities and national wildlife refuges.

The public welfare and sustainability of all Klamath Basin communities will be preserved.

The agreement itself would be in effect for 50 years before coming up for renewal, though some water provisions would be permanent.

Fisheries

The agreement calls for reintroduction of migratory fish species above Iron Gate Dam, located in Northern California, on the Klamath River, including tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake.

The goal is to sustain fisheries and harvest oportunities, as well as ensuring overall ecosystem health, with removal of the lower four dams on the Klamath River. Removing the dams will give salmon an additional 300 miles of habitat in the Klamath River while improving water quality at the same time, according to the settlement. Keno and Link River dams would continue to provide water to the Klamath Irrigation Project.

The Fisheries Program would use collaboration, incentives and adaptive management as preferred approaches. A balance should be struck between properly functioning lakes and rivers along with the economic stability of adjacent landowners. Habitat restoration will be monitored to get the greatest return on investments.

The reintroduction program will be focused in the Upper Klamath Basin, excluding the Trinity River watershed, the Lost River or its tributaries, and the Tule Lake Basin.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would recommend a reintroduction policy to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission by May 2008. The plan is intended to establish self-sustaining, naturally produced populations of Chinook, steelhead, coho and lamprey that were historically present in the Upper Klamath Basin before dams blocked their passage.

Phase one of the reintroduction plan calls for restoration and permanent protection of riparian vegetation, restoring stream channels, solving fish passage problems and preventing entrapment in water diversions. Phase one will continue for 10 years.

Phase two of the reintroduction would look at longterm strategies, based on the success of previous efforts.

Additional water for fish

The agreement calls for improved in-stream flows while maintaining the elevation of Upper Klamath Lake.

A limit would be established on the amount of water diverted from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River for use in the Klamath Reclamation Project. The Klamath Water Power Agency — consisting of irrigation districts — would develop a long-term plan for diversion.

In the driest years, reduction of irrigation water would be up to 100,000 acre feet from historic levels. More irrigation water would be available in wetter years.

The agreement calls for a voluntary water rights retirement program for the Wood, Sprague, Sycan and Williamson rivers to gain 30,000 acre feet of water for additional in-flow to Upper Klamath Lake.

Completion of breaching of levees in the Williamson River Delta would add about 28,800 acre feet of water to the lake. Reconnecting Barnes Ranch and Agency Lake Ranch to Agency Lake would add another 63,700 acre feet of storage, and reconnecting Wood River Wetlands to Agency Lake would add another 16,000 acre feet of storage.

Extra water generated by the programs would stay in the lake or Klamath River to benefit fish. A technical advisory team would be formed to develop an annual water management plan. The plan would rely on data about in-stream flows and Upper Klamath Lake elevations.

Additional water for wildlife refuges

Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges would get specific allocations of water. A drought plan would be established, including a process to ensure increasingly intensive water management for agriculture, refuges and in-lake and in-river fishery purposes in dry years.

Fish managers would develop a monitoring plan to determine the status and trends of fish populations and habitats. Factors limiting the restoration of fish populations would be evaluated, and fish managers would prepare annual reports on activities.

Drought plan and climate change

The federal, Oregon and California governments, along with irrigation districts, tribes, off-project water users, commercial fishers and other interested parties would develop a drought plan.

This plan would outline increasingly intensive water management for water needs in drought years and in cases of an extreme drought. The plan would seek to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to communities and resources under various dry conditions.

Participants also would determine how long-term climate change would affect communities and fisheries of the Klamath Basin. They would reconvene if necessary to address changes if climate change affects the agreement’s goals.

Sustainable communities

The agreement calls for permanently limiting the amount of water diverted from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River to the Klamath Reclamation Project.

The Klamath Water Power Agency would develop and implement the on-Project plan. The agency would consider conservation easements, forbearance agreements, conjunctive-use programs, efficiency measures, land and water acquisitions, groundwater development and substitution, other voluntary transactions, water storage and other measures.

The agreement would increase the allocation of water to the Project in some years by 10,000 acre feet once the four dams are removed. The agreement also would provide support for federal legislation adding fish and wildlife, and national wildlife refuges, as authorized purposes of the Project.

Lease land farming and the walking wetlands program would continue under the agreement. The wetlands support diversity of waterfowl species on the Upper Klamath Basin, according to the document.

Regulatory assurances regarding the Endangered Species Act — sought by irrigators — are part of the agreement. Specifically, stakeholders agree to “take every reasonable and legally-permissible step to avoid or minimize any adverse impact” of new aquatic species above Iron Gate Dam.

The agreement includes actions designed to maintain an irrigation power cost of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. The program includes support for legislation to secure federal reserve power to serve specific pumping facilities on the Klamath Reclamation Project.

The agreement has elements to ensure the hydropower agreement has mitigation and other protections for residents of Klamath, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties. It also has programs to offset potential property tax losses in Klamath and Siskiyou counties.

Those supporting the settlement recognized the goals of the tribes to revitalize subsistence and related economies. Those signing on to the document also support funding for the Mazama Forest Economic Development Project in Klamath County.

Implementation and funding

The Klamath Basin Coordinating Council would be formed to make sure elements of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement are carried out effectively. The council also would be the primary forum for public involvement.

The agreement also provides a process to resolve issues among parties. The four steps are: clear notice of a dispute, information meetings to resolve the dispute, referral of the dispute to the Klamath Basin Coordination Council, and mediation. Litigation would be a last resort.

The long-term cost of habitat, water programs and other measures in the Basin Restoration Agreement is estimated at about $960 million over 10 years. It will cost about $32 million to implement the agreement in fiscal year 2008.

More than 90 percent of the funding is budgeted for fisheries restoration and reintroduction, and actions to enhance the amount of water for fish.

The Klamath Settlement Group

Those sitting at the negotiating table included representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Also represented were the California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Water Resources Department, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes, and the Yurok Tribe.

Other stakeholders were Klamath County; Humboldt County, Calif.; Siskiyou County, Calif.; Klamath Reclamation Project Irrigators; Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association. Nongovernmental organizations at the talks included American Rivers, California Trout, Friends of the River, Klamath Forest Alliance, National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, North Coast Environmental Center, Northern California/Nevada Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Salmon River Restoration Council, and Trout Unlimited.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.