Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Tribes renew offer to settle Klamath water claims

By TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer

Dan Keppen, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, tells a June 8 conference on conflict resolution that it appears last week’s effort failed to resolve a lawsuit over the Klamath River coho salmon. Environmentalists, joined by downriver California American Indian tribes, brought the litigation in 2002.

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – As a downstream lawsuit over federal irrigation policy and salmon protection appeared headed for trial this fall, upper basin American Indian tribal leaders renewed attempts to resolve a water rights adjudication process now in its 29th year.

The settlement offer came from Allen Foreman, re-elected this spring to a third term as chairman of the Klamath Tribal Council. It was repeated by Jeff Mitchell, a former council chairman. Both men spoke at a June 8 conference on resolving conflicts in the Klamath Basin.

“A stipulated agreement (to Oregon water adjudication) would short-circuit a legal process,” said Foreman. He told the conference – sponsored by Jeld-Wen corporation and the Montana-based Property and Environmental Research Center – that settling water rights alone won’t address all issues sought by the tribe.

Leaders have tried for at least three years to bundle community support of associated issues, including support of resuming ownership of former reservation lands now under national forest management, into negotiated water settlements with farmers and ranchers who contest tribal claims.

“For the tribes, our door has been open, and it is going to continue to be open,” said Mitchell. “Bring your ideas to the table. Let’s sit down and see how we can work them into a solution for all of us.”

Mitchell said most veterans of the adjudication realize that no one will get all they seek.

Reed Marbut, who coordinates Klamath claims before Oregon Department of Water Resources administrative law judges, predicted it will take “years” to resolve complex issues in the tribal claims. Ranchers and farmers within the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Project argue that if the tribes got all they sought in support of treaty rights for hunting, fishing and gathering wetland-grown foodstuffs, there would be little water left in most years for agriculture.

The downstream settlement conference is over a lawsuit environmentalists brought in 2002 challenging the federal NOAA Fisheries biological opinion for coho salmon. It depends on water stored and managed for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Project.

Dan Keppen, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, a group of 17 irrigation districts within the project, told the conference it appears June 4 talks on an out-of-court settlement failed. Keppen was part of the group of federal, tribal and other interests with standing in the suit who met in Crescent City.

While the upper basin stakeholders were meeting this week in Klamath Falls, most of the lower basin interests were holding a Klamath science conference in Arcata, Calif. BuRec sponsored the symposium, a companion to a similar event held in the upper basin three months ago.

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is cappress@charter.net.

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material  herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have
expressed  a  prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and  educational purposes only. For more information go to:





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved