The Current Magazine Winter 2015 - Page 5

UPDATE 12-17-15

Curtis Knight, Executive Director

To our bitter disappointment, we learned this week the Klamath Agreements were not approved by Congress before the end of the legislation session, effectively killing the broadly supported and locally developed package of three separate but coordinated settlement agreements. Congressman Walden (R-OR), Congressman LaMalfa (R-CA) and Congressman Bishop (R-UT) deserve to be called out for their lack of leadership and vision in letting time run out. In the end, they did what a lot of people blame Congress for doing—nothing. We are grateful for the efforts of Congressman Huffman (D-CA), Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Merkely (D-OR) for their support and leadership in DC. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

The Agreements, hammered out by Indian tribes, ranchers, government agencies, the owner of the dams (PacifiCorp) and environmental groups, have been waiting for Congress to act since 2010. What is at stake is the largest river restoration project in our nation’s history, an unprecedented removal of four hydroelectric dams, and a blueprint for how opponents in a major western water dispute can overcome their differences and find common ground. The local communities of the Klamath Basin have done the hard work of painstaking negotiations and compromise to come up with the agreements. In the end, Congress has failed the Klamath basin and its communities.

What next? Many stakeholders still remain committed to working together to find a solution to water sharing, habitat restoration and dam removal. But lack of congressional approval of a locally brokered solution will force parties to the courts, regulatory agencies and the Obama administration for solutions. PacifiCorp will be required to reengage in the FERC dam relicensing process which could still lead to dam removal. But it is also possible that FERC may ultimately relicense the dams.

Klamath Agreements Crumble

Historic Klamath River Basin Restoration in Peril