GRANTS PASS, Ore. --
Klamath Tribes and farmers have agreed to drop their
state water rights battle pending approval of a
federal agreement leading to removal of dams on the
The settlement filed Wednesday
Oregon Department of Water Resources mirrors the
water issues in the dam removal plan, known as the
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Greg Addington of the Klamath Water
Users Association, which represents farmers, said
it made no sense to spend time and money fighting out
their claims in the long-running state adjudication
process when they have reached a settlement that just
hasn't gone into effect yet.
"We said we don't know when the KBRA will get
finalized or begin to get implemented, so let's settle
this now," Addington said.
He added that the settlement is conditional, so in
case the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement does not
go into effect, the two sides can resume their claims
in the state water rights adjudication process.
Tribal attorney Carl Ullman said the settlement
contains the same elements as the restoration
agreement, and shows the potential that agreement has
for settling difficult conflicts over water and other
Farmers agreed to cap and reduce irrigation on the
Klamath Reclamation Project, with those who give up
water getting paid compensation. The tribes get
assurances of water in Upper Klamath Lake for sucker
fish and in the Klamath River for salmon. Both fish
are a traditional food source for the tribes, and are
protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The battle between tribes and farmers over water
came to a head in 2001, when irrigation was shut off
to part of the project under the Endangered Species
Act to assure water for the fish. The next year, when
irrigation was restored, some 70,000 Klamath salmon
died of diseases related to low water.
Farmers, tribes, fishermen and conservation groups
signed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement in
January 2008, laying the groundwork for removing four
dams owned by PacifiCorp to help struggling salmon
runs, settling long-standing water disputes, and
restoring fish and wildlife habitat.
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