Tribal land plan clouds dam deal
KLAMATH FALLS -- The Klamath Tribes' proposal to rebuild its lost reservation with federal money is stirring old animosities here and threatening to upset a hard-fought agreement to tear down four Klamath River dams.
The so-called settlement group of 26 government agencies, farmers, tribes, fishermen and conservationists Tuesday announced a proposal to bring competing interests together to remove the dams.
The dams, owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp, have no fish ladders on the lowest three and are widely blamed for destroying salmon runs in the river and in the Pacific Ocean.
In the proposal to remove the dams are sweeteners for various interest groups to get them to cooperate. They range from guaranteed irrigation water for farmers to money for Native American tribes.
Under the new strategy, the agreement supports the tribes' request for $21 million from Congress over the next four years to buy 90,000 acres of private forestland. That amounts to about 2 percent of the $1 billion estimated cost of the Klamath Basin settlement.
The only reference in the 241-page settlement proposal to re-establishing the reservation is Section 35.2 on Page 138, a brief mention of what it calls the Mazama Project.
Restoring the reservation is a hot-button issue in Klamath County. With each new struggle in the basin, where farms go back generations and tribal lore to time immemorial, each new argument recalls past prejudices.
The tribal land proposal is no different.
On a frigid Thursday night, about 50 people stood outside the Klamath County courthouse on Main Street holding placards protesting the tribes' land deal and other portions of the agreement. At a three-hour meeting of the county's Natural Resource Advisory Committee that followed, Edward Bartell of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association urged the committee to reject the settlement.
"The way this has worked out is you stab everyone in the back and the last one standing has a settlement," Bartell said.