Supporters of a resolution to the long-standing water wars in the Klamath River Basin have signed two new agreements.
The deals move the region a big step closer to the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, which runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California. It also ensures that farmers will not be financially responsible for restoration of salmon once the dams are gone.
In a signing ceremony at the mouth of the Klamath River Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown applauded the efforts of dam-owner PacifiCorp, farmers, fishermen and tribes for not walking away from negotiations when prospects looked bleak.
“To all the people of the Klamath, you have found compromise at great risk. You have been courageous against long odds,” she said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown – no relation – also praised the agreements.
“The end goal here is the river, the fish and the sustainability – not for the next election cycle, but for eons and thousands of years,” he said. “So that’s the significance here – we’re starting to get it right after so many years of getting it wrong. What a beautiful day!”
The Klamath River starts in the high desert of Southern Oregon and ends in a wide expanse between two bluffs on the California Coast. The water is filled with honking sea lions and gulls, but not many salmon this year.
Tribes, conservationists and fishing groups hope to reverse that trend with a newly signed agreement setting up removal of four dams on the river.
“I can’t think of a better signing table than a fish-cleaning table,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, pointing to two long metal tables at the ceremony. “That’s just so symbolic.”
The deal creates a united front going into the dam removal process. But even though dam-owner PacifiCorp signed on to the deal, the final decision lies with federal energy regulators.
And it will likely have to be approved by Congress, where many members have been reluctant to support previous Klamath agreements.