The Klamath Tribes approval is one of the first to involve a group vote rather than that of a board of directors.
Much still needs to be accomplished to move the agreement forward, said Jeff Mitchell, tribal council member, but the Tribes’ decision will help with getting other groups on board.
“We’re hoping this starts a chain reaction of sorts,” he said.
The General Council includes every tribal member over the age of 18. About 100 members showed up at tribal headquarters in Chiloquin for the vote. Inclement weather nearly cancelled the meeting.
“We already had people on the road so we decided to see what would happen,” Mitchell said.
Eight opposed the agreement. Mitchell said some had concerns about the agreement’s effect on treaty rights, among other issues.
Stakeholders released the agreement Jan. 15 after two-and-a-half years of negotiations. If approved, it would allocate water in the Klamath River watershed between irrigators, tribes, fishermen and conservationists.
The Klamath Tribes were one of four tribes to participate in drafting the agreement.
The Tribal Council, composed of the elected leaders of the Tribes, recommended approval of the agreement, but a vote of the General Council is required for the Tribes to officially endorse it.
“The General Council’s decision to endorse the agreement moves the Klamath Tribes and our partners one step closer to a more sustainable future based upon cooperation among neighbors,” said Joe Kirk, tribal chairman, in a press release.
The decision isn’t final, though. The General Council’s vote of endorsement is contingent upon an acceptable agreement being reached with Portland-based utility PacifiCorp.
The settlement calls for removal of PacifiCorp’s four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to allow fish migration. The company has not said whether it would remove the dams in lieu of installing fish ladders at a cost of $300 million.
Mitchell said negotiations were continuing with the company.
“Without PacifiCorp, there is no deal,” he said.