Monday, February 27, 2012

Tribes: Move forward on Klamath project

From the Karuk Tribe:
After years of annual crisis for both fisheries and agricultural dependent communities in California and Oregon, a coalition of irrigators, Tribes, fishermen, conservation groups and a power company negotiated a pair of Agreements (Klamath Agreements) to balance water use, potentially remove dams, enhance water security for farmers, and restore fisheries. Before implementation and after extensive environmental reviews, the Agreements call on the Secretary of Interior to judge whether or not the Agreements are in the public March 31, 2012. However, the Agreements call on Congress to give its stamp of approval before the Secretary can issue a decision.

“Folks here in the basin decided that we couldn’t wait on Washington to solve our problems, so we got together and worked out our own solutions,” said Dave Bitts, a commercial fisherman from Humboldt County, CA . “Now congress is dragging its feet while both farmers and fishermen face the risk of bankruptcy.”

Groups say that the looming drought provides an even greater incentive to pass the necessary legislation so the Secretary can act. If the agreements were in place today farmers and fishermen would be in a better position to survive the upcoming drought.

Last fall, legislation that would approve the Agreements was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkely (OR) and Congressman Mike Thompson (CA). Groups say that the next step is a Congressional Hearing.

Even if legislation is passed there is no guarantee that the Secretary will rule in favor of the Agreement, however most analysts agree that the environmental reviews show that there are many economic and ecological benefits to the Agreements.

According to Curtis Knight of California Trout, “This doesn’t disrupt the timeline of dam removal in 2020. There is flexibility built in the timeline. What we need now is congressional action. The agencies are doing their job—extensive information has been developed to help inform the Secretary’s pending decision. It’s now time for congress to act.”

“We want to get the conversation started in Washington as soon as possible. The longer we wait the more folks will suffer economically and the closer Klamath Salmon get to extinction,” said Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe.

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