Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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CEQ, The Nature Conservancy and Reclamation Announce Plans to Partner on Water Availability
Klamath Falls, OR — April 2, 2002 — James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council for Environmental Quality and a member of the President’s Klamath Basin Federal Working Group, today announced a joint partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Reclamation to advance long-term wetland restoration efforts on Conservancy property on the shores of Upper Klamath Lake and to make available additional water from the Williamson River to benefit fish and wildlife across the Klamath Basin.
"The President has called for all parties to work together to reach a workable resolution to the competing demands for Klamath Basin water,” Connaughton said. “The Nature Conservancy is showing leadership to all environmental and conservation groups through its offer to make water available for fish and farmers in the Basin.”
The Conservancy has proposed that the Bureau of Reclamation increase its support of the restoration of wetlands at the Conservancy’s Williamson River Delta Preserve to improve water quality, restore marshland habitats for endangered fish and increase water storage capacity in Upper Klamath Lake. The Williamson River project is one of two major wetland restoration efforts considered critical to the future health of Upper Klamath Lake. In addition to the wetlands adjoining the lake, the project includes the lower six miles of the Williamson River, the lake's largest tributary. Other partners in the Williamson River Delta restoration include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, PacifiCorp, Cell Tech, the Klamath Tribes, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The Nature Conservancy also is proposing not to divert 13,000 acre feet of water annually for the next two years to increase water flows into Upper Klamath Lake for fish and wildlife populations. Conservancy ecologists have determined that current wetland restoration activities and continued farming operations on the Conservancy’s property will not need the water, which has historically been taken from the Williamson River for agricultural use on the property.
"This is an innovative proposal that could have short and long-term benefits for both people and the environment," said Russell Hoeflich, vice president and Oregon director for The Nature Conservancy. "In the short term, The Nature Conservancy is proposing to provide needed water to benefit fish and wildlife in the Klamath Basin. In the long term, large-scale wetland restoration could improve water quality, increase habitat for endangered species and may increase water storage in Upper Klamath Lake. We are grateful to the Bureau of Reclamation for working closely with us to try to make these benefits a reality."
Reclamation Commissioner John Keys said, “We are delighted that The Nature Conservancy has stepped forward with this proposal and are looking forward to exploring ways to work together for resolution of the complex issues facing the Klamath Basin.”
The Klamath Basin Federal Working Group was established by President Bush on March 1, 2002. President Bush instructed the Working Group to find short-term and long-term solutions to the challenges affecting farmers, ranchers, fishermen, tribes and others in the Klamath River. Interior Secretary Gale Norton chairs the working group. Other members include Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and CEQ’s Connaughton.
The Nature Conservancy is a private, international, non-profit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 12 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 80 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. In Oregon, the Conservancy owns or cooperatively manages 49 nature preserves and has helped protect more than 340,000 acres of significant habitats. On the web at: http://nature.org/oregon.
A contemporary water management agency, Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 western states. Today, these facilities include 348 reservoirs with the capacity to store 245 million acre-feet of water. Reclamation projects supply one out of five western farmers with irrigation water for approximately 10 million farmland acres. Reclamation facilities also provide water to about 31 million people for municipal and industrial uses. In addition, Reclamation is the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power, generating more than 42 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year from 58 hydroelectric power plants. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits.
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