EUREKA -- Like any thoroughly negotiated agreement between divergent interests, the Klamath settlement agreement isn't totally to anyone's liking.

Nonetheless, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to continue discussion of the agreement and keep the public comment period open when the matter comes before the board again on Feb. 19.

Several representatives from among the 26 parties to the agreement testified and it was not -- as 5th District Supervisor Jill Geist outlined -- a “Kumbaya moment.”

All of those speaking, ranging from representatives from the North Coast Environmental Center to state Department of Fish and Game to the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk tribes, agreed that removal of PacifiCorp's four lower dams was essential to the restoration of the Klamath River.

Geist introduced the lengthy presentation with a review of the process and the need for a grassroots solution.

”If we can't develop a solution,” she said, “the basin -wide conflicts will continue.”

At the heart of those conflicts is the dichotomy between the use of the river's water for agriculture in the upper basin and the need to restore flows to the rest of the river for the health of the fisheries.

That need became even more apparent -- particularly to those on the periphery -- with the 2002 fish kill in which more than 30,000 salmon died due to low flows. The key provisions, Geist explained, are rebuilding the fisheries, water for upper basin farmers and wildlife refuges.

Craig Tucker, the Klamath campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, stressed the importance of the agreement. “What we're talking about is resetting the bar in environmental restoration,” he said.

That, of course, is hinged on removal of the four PacifiCorp-owned dams. “Unless we get the dams out, we can't fix the Klamath River -- period,” Tucker said. “If we don't get the dam removal, the basin agreement won't go forward.”

For Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the emphasis was on the fact that Klamath settlement agreement does not include removal of the dams. And, he said, it appears that the PacifiCorp is unlikely to enter into a separate agreement.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently considering PacifiCorp's request to relicense the dams, a move recommended by the commission's staff.

But, Marshall said, it is the agreement's request that the tribe waive fishing and water rights in perpetuity that has prompted the tribe's opposition to the settlement agreement.

”We believe that request in and of itself is unconscionable,” Marshall said.

However, Yurok Tribe Senior Biologist Michael Belchik had a different take on the agreement's details. After considerable internal deliberation, Belchik said, the tribe is prepared to support the settlement. The Yurok Tribe is never going to waive its water rights or fishing rights, he said, but the agreement only requires a limited waiver if a series of conditions are met.

Jessie Faulkner can be reached at 441-0517 or