[env-trinity] Times Standard: Klamath dam deal only the start, officials say
tstokely at att.net
Fri Apr 8 06:16:54 PDT 2016
Klamath dam deal only the start, officials say
Future agreements will require congressional approval
By Will Houston, Eureka Times-StandardThursday, April 7, 2016While supporters of a pact to remove four Klamath River dams called it a historic leap for what could be the largest river restoration project in the nation’s history, nearly all believe it is only the first step on a long, uncharted road.How tribes, governments and irrigators will seek to settle decades’ worth of water rights disputes and provide protections for threatened fish on the 236-mile river are still unresolved and will likely require the cooperation of Congress.“The Karuk Tribe would argue that dam removal is an enormous leap forward in terms of restoring the Klamath, but we still have to settle the water problem,” Karuk Tribe Natural Resources Policy Adviser Craig Tucker said Thursday. “We still don’t have enough water in the river.”On Wednesday, top state, federal and tribal officials signed an newly amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which seeks to remove four hydroelectric dams — Copco 1, Copco 2, J.C. Boyle, and Iron Gate — from the Klamath River by 2020. The dams are located in northern California and southern Oregon and are owned by the Portland-based energy company PacifiCorp, which has also signed the agreement.If the agreement is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it will be the largest dam removal project in U.S. history.The parties also signed a second agreement — the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA) — on Wednesday which seeks to help Klamath Basin irrigators and farmers deal with the expected arrival of fish into waters currently blocked by the four hydroelectric dams.The new agreement also commits stakeholders to work over the next year to form other agreements meant to resolve water rights conflicts and provide protections for endangered fish in Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon.This is not the first attempt to address these issues.Two previous agreements — the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement — were meant to settle the water rights conflicts between tribes and irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin.These two agreements along with the KHSA were packaged together, but required congressional approval. However, the agreements stalled in Congress for six years due to opposition of House Republicans who did not support dam removal.The KBRA expired on Jan. 1.The Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement seeks to resurrect these agreements, but local officials are not expecting Congress to be cooperative. Speaking Wednesday after the KHSA signing ceremony in Requa, California 2nd District Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) summarized his experience of trying to push the agreements through the House of Representatives.“I’ve beat my head against that wall for the last three years,” Huffman said. “Unfortunately, it’s very clear that this Congress is not going to be part of the solution.”Irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin in Oregon, represented by the Klamath Water Users Association, are now concerned that the dam removal proposal is moving forward without an agreement that will give them water assurances.“We kept our part of the bargain,” Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Scott White said Wednesday. “The amended KHSA is not the solution to the basin. There is work to do to address all interest in the basin including water and power security and reliability for family farms and ranches in the Upper Klamath Basin.”The KFPA focuses on two other Klamath River dams — Keno and Link River — which are operated by PacifiCorp, but owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. With many Klamath Basin irrigators diverting water from the reservoirs behind these dams using canals and channels, the agreement seeks to find a way to prevent migrating fish from entering these waterways to protect both the fish and the farmers. Tucker said this can be achieved through construction of fish screens on canals and fish ladders on both Keno and Link River dams.While the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will seek state and private funding to pay for these additions, irrigation districts and the farmers will be responsible for covering the maintenance and cleaning of these facilities.“What we’re committing to is we’ll support public funding to pay for those things,” Tucker said.Not everyone supports the new agreement. Hoopa Valley Tribal Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt said that the Hoopa Valley Tribe is very supportive of dam removal, but is not willing to sign on to the agreement due to its tie to the Klamath Facilities and Power Agreement.Orcutt argued that the KFPA will be “indemnifying the water users” in the Klamath Basin of their impacts to water quality and quantity. The Hoopa Valley Tribe had also not supported the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement due to the agreement assuring water for basin irrigators. “A big part of (the KBRA) was it was Christmas-treed up with a whole bunch of assurances,” Orcutt said. “Now, which one will rise to be the top priority (in the KFPA)?”Orcutt said the tribe also questions whether any compromises can be reached before the upcoming presidential election.“This is the last six months of this administration,” Orcutt said. “We’ll see where it goes.”Tucker holds a different view, stating that good faith negotiations and compromise between tribes, irrigators, governments and power suppliers have led to what he believes is the greatest chance to have the dams removed and the river restored.“If you really want to fix the Klamath, we’re going to have to work with other water users in the basin who are suffering some economic insecurity that comes with water insecurity to agree on a water management plan,” Tucker said.With the dam removal agreement now on a separate track, Tucker hopes that any compromises reached through the Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement will be easier for Congress to swallow.“I’m hoping that by not leaving dam removal in the legislative package that it will be easier for (Congressional Republicans) to play ball now,” Tucker said.Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the env-trinity