Time to find common ground in the Basin
For more than two decades, the people of the Klamath River Basin have been in turmoil over water.
Upriver tribes, downriver tribes, commercial fishermen, and irrigators in the Klamath Reclamation Project have all taken major hits in the form of lost fisheries, massive fish die-offs, or loss of irrigation water. Bitter water wars have become a defining feature of the Klamath in the eyes of many.
More of the same is not what we want. Itís time to fight for peace. Thatís why a diverse coalition of farmers, Indian tribes and conservationists has come together to develop a bold, long-term solution, called the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
We came together, listened to and learned from one another, and hammered out a grassroots solution in the restoration agreement. It equitably shares water among farmers, fish, and refuges, restores salmon runs, protects affordable power rates, implements collaborative approaches to the Endangered Species Act and strengthens rural and tribal economies.
Some people on the extremes Ė left and right Ė donít want a solution. They oppose compromise and want to continue the divisions that have only brought economic and environmental hardship to the Klamath Basin. But everyone else realizes that the status quo isnít the solution, itís the problem. If you oppose progress you have an obligation to propose a better alternative, and we havenít heard one.
If we fail to act now, farmers and ranchers will go broke, and subdivisions will rise in their place. Fish, and those who rely on them, will continue their downward spiral. And as these victims of the status quo go down, the hope for economic vitality required to create jobs, support schools, and create community will disappear along with them.
The Klamath Tribes are a partner in helping craft this consensus plan. But one of the most disturbing tactics being used by certain opponents of a common ground solution is to attack the Tribes and anyone who associates with them, using misinformation to generate fear and mistrust that feeds on old prejudices that still lurk in this place.
The Tribes are proposing to support affordable power rates for irrigators, while Tribal members struggle to pay their own power bills. The Tribes are embracing a new, collaborative approach to enforcing the Endangered Species Act that will calm the fighting by helping both fish and irrigators. The Tribes are proposing to equitably resolve long-standing disputes over water, so that the Tribes and irrigators can both have a future.
In return, the Tribes are getting help with economic development that will be good for the entire community, and programs designed to restore fisheries. Every group that embraced compromise and negotiated towards the middle has a similar list of gives and gets. It is unfair and inappropriate to single out what the Klamath Tribes get through this agreement Ė beware of those who do so, and look carefully for their real motives.
Nothing about finding common ground among diverse interests has been, or ever will be, easy. But it has been accomplished in the restoration agreement, which the Klamath Tribes has officially endorsed. Now it needs the support of our government leaders and most importantly, you the public, the residents of the Klamath River Basin.