Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Water Line: Klamath Basin Agreements
(entire articles below...scroll)
Herald and News 1/11/15
(5 1/2 pages are dedicated to those supporting the KBRA/KHSA Klamath settlement "agreements" and 1/2 to elected Klamath County Commissioners who have written letters to U.S. representatives in opposition of the" agreements".
1/11/15: Oregon Democrat representatives Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley are again trying to push the KBRA / Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, through the Senate and Congress, so below are articles in the Herald and News advertising the deal
Here is the Karuk Spokesman Craig Tucker page. Tucker was trained by GreenCorp to be a "career ... environmental and social justice activist." He was on the steering committee of Klamath Riverkeeper before it spun off from umbrella group Klamath Forest Alliance, and he’s presently on the board. "The goal: removal of four dams on the Klamath River which would represent the largest dam removal project in history." He speaks of "Klamath Project irrigators, the enemies of the tribes" and infers that, after these dams come out, Keno Dam is next.
AUDIO 9/28/11 - Klamath Basin "Power for Water Agreement" Holly Cannon, KWAPA / Klamath Water and Power Agency (power part of the KBRA / Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement), Executive Director, held meeting in Tulelake to urge irrigators to sign onto the "low-cost power for water" agreement..."...that's what the KBRA is about, is bringing "low-cost power..."
Klamath Basin collaboration - - Water rights: A balancing act
Watershed accords represent hard work, tough compromises
It’s the story of Klamath Basin water, and most of all, it’s about hope.
Karuk Tribe Spokesman Craig Tucker said many of the early meetings leading up to the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) were tense. Several parties at the negotiation table had been at odds — sometimes violently — for years.
But as talks continued and walls were broken down, Tucker said, he saw an authentic relationship emerge between the Basin’s tribal and agricultural communities.
“I think I saw over time, some of these folks from the farm community really come to understand why fish are important to Indians. I think I also saw a lot of Indians come to appreciate what they had in common with the farmers,” Tucker said.
It’s no secret that water in the Klamath Basin is a contentious issue. Tribal communities flourished around the Basin’s water sources for centuries. Settlers later harnessed those sources for irrigated agriculture, and water diversions transformed the Basin’s semi-arid landscape into thousands of acres of productive farmland, creating one of the first Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects in the United States.
In 2008, the Herald and News published “Watermarks,” a four-part special report investigating the heart of Klamath water issues. In the series, published two years before the KBRA and KHSA were finalized in 2010, some thought the agreements were “as good as done.”
The two agreements, meant to reinforce federal tribal trust obligations and to create a “safe harbor” that keeps farmers and ranchers whole during drought years, are still waiting for their day in the sun. Although the pacts promise to provide greater certainty for water availability, regulatory expectations, power costs, and more, they have languished on lawmakers’ desks for five years.
Now, in “Water Line,” a six-page special report in today’s paper, the H&N takes a second look at the KBRA and KHSA, and the 2014 upper Basin agreement that spelled out the realities of a settlement concept.
It’s been more than decade since farmers and tribes squared off during the water crisis of 2001 and the massive fish kill the following year, yet the Basin’s future remains a mystery.
“My personal feeling is that we haven’t faced this much uncertainty since 2001,” said Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Association.
The 132-page watershed bill that landed on lawmakers’ desks in late 2014 hails a new chapter in Basin water. The bill — the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act, Senate Bill 2379 — represents years of collaboration, much of it donated time, and millions of dollars invested in anticipation of a settlement being put into action.
The settlement package attempts to keep farmers in water, protect species on the brink of extinction, and establish economic stability for Basin communities.
The bill addresses concerns from the headwaters of the Klamath watershed, northeast of Klamath Falls, to the mouth of the Klamath River where it meets the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. It is the first-ever of this scale.
Years of litigation — mostly uphill legal battles with few large-scale victories — have tried to quell the Basin’s water uncertainty. Many now believe collaboration is the best vision for the Basin. It’s a vision that meets the needs of the most stakeholders, rather than a vision that meets the most needs of one group.
Tribes, farmers, ranchers and environmental advocates have forced themselves to see water use from new perspectives. They’ve learned how to work together and to meet eye-to-eye at negotiation tables.
Now, even though a settlement is still hanging in the balance, farmers and ranchers have implemented new ways to conserve and use water to its fullest. In good faith, the Klamath Tribes have agreed to honor settlement conditions to ensure irrigators have water in times of drought.
Linda Long, president of the Modoc Point Irrigation District, said what makes SB 2379 such a landmark achievement is the determination of upper and lower Basin stakeholders to set aside their differences and work toward the same goal.
Long said if these hard-won agreements fall apart, she doesn’t know if they’ll ever get put back together again.
“It will affect our whole basin, not just the irrigation community,” Long said.
Government agencies, and water and wildlife advocate groups have already granted millions to support better water management practices in the Basin.
“Most everything the KWAPA has accomplished has been in anticipation of the KBRA passing,” Cannon said.
Rancher Tom Burns said a landowner entity group representing interests of the upper Basin pact is looking at the economic viability of upper Basin ag and how it can be sustained if the Basin settlements are not approved by Congress.
“It dies automatically if the rest of the agreements don’t go through,” Burns said.
Basin's best shot
The sense of urgency is real.
“If the KBRA is what keeps us in the water, we need support and we are going to need it soon,” farmer Gary Wright said.
On Thursday, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, introduced SB 2379 — now named SB 133 — into the first congressional session of 2015.
Many are wondering if this could be the watershed year farmers, tribes and environmentalists breach the status quo and bring unity to the Klamath Basin.
Klamath Project farmer Warren Haught said conditions are ripening for a “perfect storm.”
“If (the KBRA) doesn’t pass Congress, it doesn’t do us any good,” Haught said. “It could get a lot worse if we don’t figure out some way to make this thing work.”
According to farmer Gary Wright, if the KBRA fails, the entire Klamath Project is in trouble.
“If the KBRA fails, Lord help us,” said farmer Gary Derry.
From conflict to compromise: Now dissolution?
Water agreement could come down like a ‘house of cards’After years of contentious water conflict, dozens of stakeholders finally sat together and hammered out a complex package of water use compromises.
The resulting 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, guaranteed water for the Klamath Project and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in return for removing four Klamath River dams and restoring fisheries for Basin tribes.Conditions of the two agreements rely heavily on each other — where one party gives, another takes, and vice versa. The benefits stakeholders fought for cannot be hand-picked out of the settlements, nor can a lone party withdraw.
It’s all or nothing.Either everyone moves forward together, or the whole thing comes down like a house of cards.
The KBRA sunset on Dec. 31. Because Congress did not pass Senate Bill 2379, which encompasses the KBRA, the KHSA, and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, in 2014, parties can begin taking steps to terminate the KBRA.If a party believes the bargained-for benefits are no longer achievable and the agreement should terminate, the party must submit a dispute initiation notice within 60 days of Dec. 31 to begin the termination process. According to the KBRA, the agreement can terminate if federal legislation — needed for financial backing and infrastructure support — has not been enacted or the parties do not agree to amend the settlement.
If a dispute notice is not given within the 60-day period, and the agreement has not terminated, the expiration date will be extended until Dec. 31, 2015.
Regarding compensation for the counties, if the settlement agreements are approved by Congress, Klamath County would have an economic loss of $1 million per year due to lost property taxes and tax revenue from Keno Dam (being transferred to the government), idled ground, and loss of JC Boyle hydroelectric dam. The KBRA offered Klamath County only $3.2 million altogether in compensation over 15 years.
State adjudicator Jesse Ratcliffe, Assistant Attorney General with the Oregon Department of Justice, administrative law judge, and representative for Oregon Water Resources Department, was participant in close door KBRA and KHSA settlement meetings.
He was in charge of the administrative process of the Klamath water adjudication which gave control of the majority of the water to the Klamath Tribes.
ADJUDICATION: FIRST IN TIME; FIRST IN RIGHT
The process to rein in water use and establish Klamath Basin landowners’ water rights began in 1957. Since 1909, when the Oregon Water Resources Department established a permit process for capturing or harvesting water, the Klamath Basin has become one of the last basins in Oregon to be regulated — nearly two-thirds of Oregon has water rules. 2013 marked the end of the Basin’s decades-long process.
Some say adjudication leads to greater security, predictability and flexibility for water users; others consider it a stranglehold on a valuable resource.
The first year of adjudication in the Klamath Basin saw 590 water rights for 350 users, according to OWRD Watermaster Scott White.
A priority date is assigned by the date a landowner’s application for a water permit or rights was submitted. Following the water law “first in time; first in right” maxim, the Klamath Tribes were awarded a “time immemorial” right, and the ability to have their water needs met first.
Other significant priority dates harken back to 1864 — when much of the Klamath Tribes' territorial land was seized and tribal members were constrained to a 2 million-acre reservation — and to 1905, the year the Bureau of Reclamation was approved to construct the Klamath Project. All three dates — among the most senior in the Basin — can “call” or restrict water from junior water users upstream to meet their needs.
Initiating the water rules was the first phase of adjudication. Now the second phase — review of the Final Order of Determination — is underway. More than 180 landowners are contesting the OWRD’s determination, and have filed claims that will be reviewed by Judge Cameron F. Wogan in Klamath County Circuit Court.
Trial Court Administrator John Powell said the next step will occur this month, when parties can make requests and recommendations for how court proceedings should move forward.
Powell explained that the court will review the exceptions, and ultimately issue a water rights decree affirming or modifying the OWRD Final Order of Determination. Powell declined to wager a guess as to when the decrees will be finalized.
KBC - Water for refuges
where the Tule Lake refuge is was originally slated for more homesteaders
to farm. When the government decided to create a refuge there
there was no issue with refuge water. If the farmers receive their
deeded water (deeds signed by their President of the United
States), then the water would end up in the refuges.