Historic Agreement Reached in Klamath Dam Controversy

Things have moved one step closer to the largest river restoration process getting the green light.
The largest river restoration project in American history may become a reality.

Tribal, fishery, and environmental groups in California and Oregon's Klamath Basin have been trying for years to get a series of antiquated dams removed from the Klamath River -- but they've run into conflict from upstream irrigators used to getting cheap and plentiful water, and PacifiCorp, the dams' owner. (You can read more about that in my AlterNet story.)

The dams, which produce a minimal amount of electricity, were constructed in 1918 and have resulted in the loss of historic salmon runs, changes in water quality and safety of the river, and have devastated the economies of Native and fishing communities along the river and coast.

But, after over two years of talks, an alliance of 26 diverse stakeholders from the Basin has produced a draft agreement.

A representative from the Karuk tribe confirmed that: "the Klamath Settlement Group has produced a draft agreement to settle many of the key issues that have for years divided the Klamath Basin's diverse communities. ... The meetings producing the agreement were convened by the Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, and Klamath Water Users Association.
According to Maria Tripp, Yurok Tribal Chair:
This is a historic moment for the Yurok people and all other Klamath Basin communities. For many generations, the Yurok people have witnessed a steady decline in the health of the river and the life that it sustains. Implementation of this agreement, coupled with removal of the four PacifiCorp dams from the Klamath River, turns the tide from degradation to restoration. These agreements will enable our children's children to have the same cultural experiences and memories of the river and fish that our families enjoyed a hundred years ago.

The Karuk's press info says that, "The proposal addresses the needs of fish and farms. It provides a reliable and adequate allocation of water to farms and wildlife refuges, addresses the need for affordable power for Klamath Project irrigators who move water between farms, wildlife refuges and to the river. At the same time more water will be made available to the lower river to for the benefit of fisheries and coastal communities. Proponents of the agreement see it as a giant leap forward in the effort to restore the entirety of the Klamath basin."
A representative of the Klamath Irrigation project, which speaks for the interests of farmers in the area, gave his support, as did Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

But there are still some pieces of the puzzle missing.
Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.