Restoring the Klamath Basin

Restoring the Klamath Basin

The Klamath Basin has been called the Everglades of the West. Six spectacular National Wildlife Refuges dot the basin. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds rely on basin wetlands. Large numbers of bald eagles forage in the basin in the winter.

Upper Klamath NWR

Historically, the Klamath Basin supported:

  • massive concentrations of waterfowl, quite possibly the largest on the planet
  • the third-largest salmon runs in the Western United States (behind only the Columbia and Sacramento rivers)
  • large populations of unique sucker fish found nowhere else.

Unfortunately, large water withdrawals for irrigation, a series of dams on the Klamath River, commercial agriculture on the National Wildlife Refuges, and the loss of basin wetlands have seriously depleted these tremendous resources.

Despite the loss of habitat, the Klamath offers perhaps the best opportunity on the West Coast to restore a major river basin.

To restore the Klamath, WaterWatch is working to:

  • bring demand for water back into balance with what nature can provide
  • assure sufficient water for fish, wildlife, wetlands and the National Wildlife Refuges in the basin
  • phase out commercial farming on 22,000 acres of Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges
  • remove PacifiCorp’s four lower hydropower dams on the Klamath River
  • increase legal compliance and agency accountability on water allocation and other management decisions that affect aquatic habitat

Keep up with the latest developments on the Klamath at our Updates page, and lend your voice in support by signing up for RiverAction!

Current Klamath work

Read WaterWatch’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources June 20, 2013 hearing on water resources issues in the Klamath River Basin. Watch the hearing here.

Read WaterWatch Comments on Klamath Facilities Removal Draft Environmental Impact Statement, December 29, 2011 [PDF]

Read WaterWatch’s concerns and work with the Klamath River Basin Settlement Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). 

Klamath Resources

Click here for information on the January 15, 2008, draft Klamath settlement, including fact sheets and analysis by WaterWatch and others.


Ground-water Hydrology of the Upper Klamath Basin, Oregon and California. USGS/OWRD (May 2007)

Assessment of the Klamath Project Pilot Water Bank: A Review from a Hydrologic Perspective. USGS (2005) [PDF]

The 2002 Fish-Kill

Klamath River Basin Hydrologic Conditions Prior to the September 2002 Die-Off of Salmon and Steelhead. USGS (2003)[PDF]

September 2002 Klamath River Fish-Kill: Final Analysis of Contributing Factors and Impacts. California Department of Fish and Game (July 2004) [PDF]

The Klamath Irrigation Power Subsidy

Energy Pricing and Irrigated Agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin. Brief #3. Dr. William Jaeger (July 2004) [PDF]

Oregon Public Utility Commission Orders

OPUC Order: Rate Standard Established [PDF]

OPUC Order: Transitional Rates Established for Klamath Basin Irrigators [PDF]

OPUC Order: Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissed [PDF]

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges

Refuges in Peril: Fish, Wildlife, and the Klamath Water Crisis [PDF]

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