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Water settlement comes into question. Tribes remain hopeful that Congress will approve legislation
“Our concern is that legislation has not passed. We are unable to obtain our bargained for benefits,” said Karuk Tribes Spokesman Craig Tucker. “We remain steadfastly in support of the agreements, but we can’t wait forever for Congress to do its thing.”The Klamath Tribes, the Karuk Tribe, and the Yurok Tribe have each filed dispute initiation notices, which is the first step in the resolution process outlined in the KBRA. The Yurok Tribe could not be reached for comment.
At a Feb. 28 general council meeting, Klamath Tribes members voted unanimously to file a dispute initiation notice. According to the KBRA, if a party to the settlement believes the bargained-for benefits are no longer achievable, the party can submit a dispute initiation notice within 60 days of Dec. 31, 2014.Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said the Tribes do not want to terminate the agreement; however, if they decided at a later date to do so, it would have been too late to file a dispute resolution notice. “The Klamath Tribes are committed to the agreements if fully implemented and we remain hopeful that our concerns will be addressed,” Gentry said in a statement.
“However, the sale of the Mazama Forest land is of grave concern to our membership, and we felt we had to officially register this concern by initiating the dispute resolution processes before the deadline.”The Klamath Tribes filed the notice after learning the 90,000-acre Mazama Forest, which encompasses a mass of former reservation land, was sold in mid-February. Acquiring the forest is a key component of the KBRA, and the Tribes hoped Congress would appropriate funds to purchase it as part of Senate Bill 133, a threepart bill aimed at relieving Basin-wide water woes.
Gentry said the Tribes reached out to the new landowners about acquiring the property. He said the new owners are not interested in selling the parcel.According to a news release, the KBRA states if funding for the forest is “not timely provided, the Klamath Tribes shall have a right to withdraw from this agreement.”
“We have consistently said that land recovery is an essential component of these agreements for the Klamath Tribes,” Gentry said. “We would all like to see Congress pass the necessary legislation to complete the terms of the agreements so that we can move forward as a community. Unfortunately, at this moment our tribal members feel that we have traveled the path of broken promises too many times, and must be proactive in finding a solution to ensure all parties achieve their bargained for benefits.”SB 133 was referred to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 8. The committee will consider the bill before possibly sending it to the House or Senate. The bill must be passed by the House and Senate in identical form and signed by the president before it can become law.
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