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Water pact awaits tribal approval,
Tribes’ support hinges on tree farm acquisition
  by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 12/24/13
     A week-long series of Klamath Tribes meetings has begun solidifying a settlement agreement between the Tribes and the Upper Klamath Water Users Association.

   Don Gentry, Klamath Tribes chairman, said four meetings last week with tribal members across the state have shown a good representation of the tribal community, and have been helpful in moving the pact, known as the “Agreement in Principle,” forward.

   “They have a good understanding of how we got to this place and what we are trying to do,” Gentry said.

   The agreement in principle (AIP) is part of settlement negotiations among members of the Klamath Basin Task Force, which was appointed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., earlier this year. The task force is comprised of several Klamath Basin stakeholders and is charged with reaching resolutions to ensure each group’s Basin interests are being addressed with longterm solutions.   A Jan. 17 deadline has been set for the AIP in the hopes of introducing it to Congress early next year.

   Gentry said one condition emphasized at the meetings is making sure economic elements of the pact are met. In particular, Klamath Tribes hope to secure support for the 92,000-acre Mazama tree farm acquisition, which was   a condition of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

   The 2010 KBRA settlement and the related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement seek to establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat, help the Klamath Tribes acquire the Mazama tree farm and remove four dams on the Klamath River.

   “It’s really clear from member communication that when the agreement is final, it needs to be balanced,” Gentry said.

   Acquiring the tree farm, which was once part of the Klamath Tribes reservation, will promote Tribal economic development, Gentry said. The tree farm acreage is currently owned by a private timber company.

   He also pointed out that AIP Tribal benefits
, such as fish habitat and population restoration, could take decades, while other parties, such as the Upper Basin Water Group, will receive benefits from the agreement immediately. “The context is to provide economic stability to the region and preserve irrigation viability,” Gentry said. “It’s recognized that to move forward we need support for managing the forest.”

   The AIP is part of a piece of legislation Oregon officials are hoping to introduce in Congress early next year. If   approved by the Tribal Council and a host of irrigators, the agreement will become one component of proposed legislation that will cover the upper Basin; the KBRA, including on-project irrigators; and the KHSA, which may involve removing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

   Gentry said all parties involved in finalizing the AIP are committed to meeting the Jan. 17 deadline.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN  



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