The Klamath Basin Today
The Klamath River Basin is the size of New England. In the 1800s, its salmon and related fisheries exceeded all others on the West Coast, excepting the Columbia. Since that time, its waters have been heavily developed for irrigation and hydropower. Today, the salmon fisheries are nearly gone. As a result of systemic shortages, the Klamath is the venue for one of the West Coastís worst water wars.
One cause is PacifiCorpís Klamath Hydroelectric Project, built between 1908 and 1962. Its four dams block all upstream fish passage and prevent access to more than 350 miles of spawning and rearing habitat, mostly in Oregon. The chronic condition of the fishery impairs or even prevents religious and cultural ceremonies by the Hoopa, Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes.
The U.S. Department of Interiorís Klamath Reclamation Project is the second primary cause for biodiversity decline in the Klamath Basin. That federal project, constructed around 1905, diverts and supplies an average of 400,000 acre-feet per year for irrigation in the vicinity of Upper Klamath Lake, or nearly 60% of the total irrigation supply in the basin.
NHIís Work Toward a Better Future for the Klamath Basin
A much better future will result from settlements tentatively reached by the collaborative efforts of 26 parties including the U.S., the states of Oregon and California, federally recognized tribes, farmers, commercial fishermen, and conservation groups.
As of January 8, 2010, the parties have released two settlements for public commentóa draft Basin Restoration Agreement and a draft Hydropower Settlement Agreement. NHI is counsel to American Rivers and California Trout and functioned as a lead drafter of these settlements. Both agreements were signed on February 18, 2010 by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, PacifiCorp Chief Executive Officer Greg Abel and the chairmen of the Klamath, Yurok and Karuk Tribes.
The Restoration Agreement will improve water management throughout the Basin through 2060. Under the Hydropower Settlement, PacifiCorp agrees to decommission its four dams on the Klamath. This undertaking represents the largest dam removal project ever proposed, and will open the upper basin to anadromous fisheries for the first time since 1918. Given the quality and scale of habitat in this basin (mostly now blocked by the hydropower project), we expect that, soon after 2020, the anadromous fisheries will again be among the largest on the entire West Coast.
For more information, and to read the proposed agreements, visit: http://www.edsheets.com/Klamathdocs.html
Contact: Richard Roos-Collins