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. 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
Settlement Agreements & Legislation
WaterWatch Guest Opinion: A realistic path forward for the Klamath Basin, Bend Bulletin, December 27, 2015
WaterWatch Guest Opinion: It’s Time to Acknowledge KBRA Isn’t a Solution, Two Rivers Tribune, July 28, 2015
WaterWatch Guest Opinion: ‘Make-believe water’ bill would be disaster for Klamath, Register-Guard, July 11, 2015
WaterWatch and Portland Audubon Guest Opinion: Wyden legislation is not what the Klamath refuges need, Oregonian, June 27, 2015
WaterWatch Guest Opinion: Klamath Basin proposal is bad for taxpayers, Oregonian, December 6, 2014
WaterWatch Op-Ed: Questions persist despite Klamath agreements, Statesman Journal, November 29, 2014
WaterWatch testimony submitted in response to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water and Power June 3, 2014 hearing on the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 2379).
National Wildlife Refuges
Judge Affirms Ruling Favoring Wildlife on Klamath Refuges, April 16, 2015
In a victory for the Klamath’s migratory waterfowl and other wildlife, a U.S. District Judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to complete the long overdue “Comprehensive Conservation Plan” for Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges. These plans require the USFWS to ensure commercial activities on refuge lands do not harm wildlife.
Opportunities for Improving Water Supply Reliability for Wildlife Habitat on the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges
GOLDINWATER Consulting report, commissioned by WaterWatch
Refuges in Peril: Fish, Wildlife, and the Klamath Water Crisis, 2004
Joint report by WaterWatch, The Wilderness Society, Oregon Wild, and Earthjustice
Hydrology, Groundwater, & Water Management
Ground-Water Hydrology of the Upper Klamath Basin, Oregon and California, USGS, April 2010
Klamath Irrigation Pumping Subsidy
Oregon Public Utility Commission Orders, UE 170 & 171:
Energy Pricing and Irrigated Agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin, Dr. William Jaeger, Oregon State University, 2004
Klamath River Basin Hydrologic Conditions Prior to the September 2002 Die-Off of Salmon and Steelhead. USGS (2003)