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Tribes still seeking land, water solution
The Klamath Tribes are launching a new effort to
regain thousands of acres of former reservation
land, and have been quietly working with irrigators
to strike a deal on water issues that could help
pave the way for getting the land back.
"As we move forward in
this New Year and now that the United States
Presidential Election process is final, the Klamath
Tribes are once again renewing our efforts in this
process," Foreman said in a press release issued
The document titled "A
plan for the return of the Klamath tribal homelands"
states the Tribes want all of the federally owned
land that lies within the boundaries of their
reservation that was terminated in 1961. In all,
that's 730,646 acres of land.
Foreman on Friday
confirmed both the acreage numbers and the fact that
the Tribes want the Klamath Marsh.
The Tribes' 10-member
executive council has approved the 16-page plan, but
it won't be released until an agreement with Basin
irrigators is in place and it is approved by the
Tribes' general membership, Foreman said. He said
information in the document is still subject to
federal recognition of the Klamath Tribes in 1986,
but took no action with regard to the former
reservation, which covered about 1.8 million acres
when the tribe was terminated in 1954.
director of the U.S. Department of Interior's Office
of Policy Analysis, has been the point man in the
federal government's talks with the Tribes. He said
the talks have been on hold while the government
waits for a resolution of a longstanding dispute
over water issues in the Klamath Basin.
An agreement on water
issues could come in an ongoing set of talks
facilitated by former state Sen. Steve Harper. The
talks, which have received no publicity, between
tribal leaders and certain irrigation officials is
aimed at clearing up contested claims in the state
of Oregon's adjudication process.
Talks between tribal
leaders and irrigators have been going on since the
middle of last summer, Harper said. He would not say
who has been participating in the meetings.
Harper said land
restoration for the Tribes is not a topic at the
Started in 1975, the
adjudication process that will determine who has the
highest claim on water rights was delayed by legal
issues until 1996. The Oregon Department of Water
Resources then started the process in earnest.
He said more than 85
percent of the contests have been settled, but the
most difficult remain. He said it is hard to
estimate how much longer the process will take
because it depends on when the claims get settled.
At the present rate it will probably take about
three years, he added.
If irrigators and the
Tribes reached a settlement, the adjudication
process could be finished in a shorter period of
time and water users would know how much water they
are entitled to, said Roger Nicholson, a Fort
Ed Bartell, a Sprague
River valley rancher, said Harper is providing a
forum for parties at odds in the adjudication to
come to terms.
Foreman said irrigators
from the Klamath Reclamation Project and from the
watershed above Upper Klamath Lake have been at the
meetings with the Tribes.
The draft document
obtained by the Herald and News also includes a
letter written to "the officials and agents of the
government of the United States," signed by Foreman
and dated Dec. 1, 2004. In the letter the Tribes
make reference to a possible water agreement.
"Even though we were
subjected to a political process through the state
adjudication in which the tribal position was
weakened, The Klamath Tribes have carried out their
end of the agreement by agreeing to refrain from
exercising their senior water rights," the letter
"It's kind of a
ticklish situation," Foreman said. "... We certainly
could go back to square one."
In the draft document, the Tribes outline several reasons why they believe they are entitled to a return of the land:
The document also says various government and
congressional representatives have indicated that
"if we were to arrive at a mutually acceptable
negotiated water settlement with other water users
in the Klamath Basin then our request for a land
return would be considered."
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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