Tuesday, April 6 marked a milestone for Klamath River restoration and conservation. As a culmination of a fourteen-year long grassroots campaign led by Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath tribal members and river advocates, more than 100 people witnessed the historic signing of an agreement that promises to remove four dams on the Klamath River in early 2020.
After years of litigation, protests, arduous negotiation, and waiting for Congress, Klamath Riverkeeper celebrates this important breakthrough that brings us closer than ever to the largest dam removal and salmon restoration project in history.
The amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) was signed by PacifiCorp, the states of California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, and two federal agencies at the mouth of the Klamath River. Speakers at the signing ceremony included Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes leadership along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and California Governor Jerry Brown, the President and CEO of Pacific Power, and the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell among others.
“Today is a historic day where the parties who have worked for decades to restore the Klamath Basin are reaffirming their commitment to each other for the shared vision of fisheries restoration and irrigated agriculture co-existing as we move into the future,” said Secretary Jewell. “This agreement is an important initial step as we work toward a comprehensive set of actions to advance long term restoration and sustainability for tribes, fisheries, and agriculture and water users across the Klamath Basin.”
The revised dam removal agreement can achieve dam removal despite ideological roadblocks created by House Republicans. The agreement relies on existing legal authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but does not require an act of Congress.
Klamath River Dam removal will open more than 400 miles of historic fish habitat, reduce toxic algae levels in the river, improve the regional tourism and fishing industries, and increase access to healthy food sources for local communities. Dam removal is also less costly than infrastructure upgrades required by the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
The dam removal agreement signed yesterday was accompanied by a second agreement called the Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA) that offers some assurances to agricultural water users by offering electricity subsidies and a shared commitment to resolve water conflicts within one year. It commits signatories to finding collaborative solutions that strive to balance water use with recovery of salmon, including those reintroduced after the four Lower Klamath River dams are removed.
Klamath Riverkeeper will remain engaged in the water sharing negotiations over the next year to secure water flows in the Klamath River that protect endangered species and subsistence fishing.
“We believe that taking care of the Klamath River is the responsibility of everyone who lives in the basin,” explains Karuk Chairman Russell “Buster” Attebery. “We can’t restore our fishery without working with our neighbors in agriculture and they can’t secure water for their farms without working with us. Dam removal is huge leap forward, but we must continue to work with the agriculture community to solve water conflicts as well.”