FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2008
510-336-9566, C 415-336-9623
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited
510-528-4164, C 510-917-8572
Steve Rothert, American Rivers
530-478-5672, C 530-277-0448
Brian Barr, National Center for Conservation Science & Policy
541-482-4459 x 304
Comprehensive agreement for Klamath Basin restoration proposed, sets stage for hyrdropower agreement and dam removal
Klamath Basin, California/Oregon Border - The details of a proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement were released today by the Klamath Settlement Group. The Group includes representatives from diverse Klamath Basin communities and officers from tribal, federal, state, and county governments that all have a stake in water and power management in the area. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is the result of more than two years of negotiation among interest groups as varied as farmers who rely on irrigation water from the Klamath watershed system to conservation groups dedicated to improving habitat for fish and other wildlife.
Key provisions of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement include a program to rebuild fish populations sufficient for sustainable tribal, recreational, and commercial fisheries; reliable water allocation to sustain the needs of the agricultural community and national wildlife refuges in the basin; a program to stabilize power costs in the area; and a compensation program for counties that may be impacted by the removal of the identified hydroelectric facilities. Implementing the agreement as it is currently outlined is expected to cost approximately $400 million in new funding over 10 years.
"The Klamath River was once the third greatest Pacific salmon producing stream in the lower 48 states," said Brian Barr of the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy. "Decades of degrading habitat and blocking fish from 300 miles of stream have caused wild salmon populations to drop by 90%. We need to build a robust future for the Klamath River and the communities that depend on it."
The Klamath Settlement Group was first formed in 2004 after PacifiCorp applied to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for relicensing of five mainstem dams it currently runs on the Klamath River. The lower three dams block passage for salmon, steelhead and lamprey to over 300 of miles of spawning and rearing habitat. Under the federal relicensing process, parties can submit to FERC a preferred negotiated outcome. Negotiations with PacifiCorp on an agreement are still proceeding.
The groups still face one significant hurdle before the proposed agreement can be adopted and implemented and that is an agreement to remove PacifiCorp's lower four Klamath dams.
"The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement marks a major stride forward in bringing peace to the Klamath River," said Brian Stranko, Chief Executive Officer of fishing and water quality advocacy group California Trout, one of the conservation groups that participated in the Proposed Agreement. "This is, however, only half of the pie. We also need success in negotiations with PacifiCorp to remove four mainstem dams before this Basin Restoration Agreement can be signed and implemented-the two separate agreements make a non-severable package."
"It hasn't been easy; it was a tough several years putting this proposal together, but I've got new found respect for all the communities involved from Tribal to environmental and farming," said Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited. "I am also hopeful we can develop a good business deal that works for PacifiCorp and for the river too. We can and should do both."
The Proposed Agreement developed a series of priorities for water management that take into account the competing needs of farmers, fish, power users, and protected natural habitat in the area.
"Removing these dams makes sense," said Steve Rothert of American Rivers. "By releasing the proposed Basin Restoration Agreement today, we're saying that there is a better way, and that ongoing environmental degradation is no longer an option. It's time to bring disparate groups together and work out realistic solutions that will pave the way for a better, more responsible future."
The Klamath Settlement Group is working on two agreements: the Basin Restoration Agreement and the Hydropower Agreement. The Klamath Settlement Group will approve both concurrently after public review and completion of the Basin Restoration Agreement, and negotiations for the Hydropower Agreement are concluded. As a package, these agreements will create effective and durable solutions that will restore and sustain natural production of fish species throughout the Klamath Basin, establish reliable water and power supplies to sustain agricultural uses and National Wildlife Refuges, and contribute to the public welfare through responsible management practices.