The Klamath Settlement Agreements

The Klamath Settlement Agreements

Two negotiated Klamath Basin settlement agreements were publicly released in early 2010:

1. Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA): regarding basin issues including water allocation and management, restoration and commercial agriculture on the basin’s National Wildlife Refuges

and the

2. Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA): regarding further study of the removal of PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams.

View the agreements (external links)

KBRA (pdf)

KHSA (pdf)

The agreements result from confidential negotiations originally about relicensing PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams, but which quickly grew to include basin-wide issues unrelated to the dams. WaterWatch was a party to the negotiations until being involuntarily expelled, along with Oregon Wild, for expressing disagreement with the proposed – now final – deal term mandating that parties support commercial farming on the basin’s National Wildlife Refuges. Despite stated willingness to continue to negotiate in good faith, WaterWatch was excluded from the talks for failing to support this destructive practice.

In its last months in office, the Bush administration moved to lock in the KBRA by linking it to the KHSA agreement regarding PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams. Full implementation of the agreements will require federal legislation, substantial federal and state taxpayer funding (over $1 billion total), and other key steps. WaterWatch is continuing to work to address the problems with these agreements.

While WaterWatch fully supports dam removal, WaterWatch does not support the KBRA and does not support linking the KBRA to the KHSA.

Key Problems With The Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA)

1. The KBRA attempts to guarantee water deliveries for the Klamath Project Irrigators but contains no water guarantees or minimum stream flow levels for fish (including three fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act). The KBRA water guarantees for the Klamath Project Irrigators in wet years would deliver more water to the irrigators than they historically used in wet years, and in dry years would deliver more water to the irrigators than allowed under current Endangered Species Act protections for coho salmon;

2. The Klamath River flows which are predicted (by the deal’s proponents) to result from the KBRA would be at levels below those needed for salmon, including the river flow levels currently required under the Biological Opinion for coho salmon and the flows recommended for salmon by the best available science;

3. The Klamath Project Irrigators would receive $92.5 million under the KBRA to develop and implement their own private water plan without public oversight. A significant concern is that much of this money could be used for unsustainable groundwater development;

4. Commercial farming on 22,000 acres of Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges would be supported by all non-federal KBRA parties for 50 years when the practice needs to be phased out;

5. The KBRA’s attempted water allocation to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge may never occur, is insufficient, limits the refuge from otherwise improving its water situation, and puts a heavy burden on the refuge during droughts. Under the KBRA, water deliveries to refuge wetlands would be cut before reducing water deliveries used to irrigate refuge land for commercial farming;

6. The KBRA would eliminate the best tools to secure water for Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge;

7. Klamath Project Irrigators would receive $41 million in power subsidies, plus lower cost BPA power, plus special contracts that allow them to continue to drain important National Wildlife Refuge lands for commercial agriculture; and

8. The KBRA’s price tag is nearly $1 billion, yet it fails to address key problems in the basin and none of this money is for dam removal.

Key Problems With The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA)

Though the KHSA could lead to dam removal, it is not an agreement to remove any dams, but to study whether or not any of the dams should be removed.  The KHSA should be modified to address the following problems:

1. Dam removal is unnecessarily linked to the KBRA and if KBRA legislation does not pass, dam removal would be derailed;

2. There is no agreement to remove dams, only to go through a new process to determine whether dams should be removed or not;

3. No dam removal would occur before 2020, while PacifiCorp would be allowed to continue operations that degrade water quality and harm salmon, including Endangered Species Act listed coho with minimal operational changes in the interim;

4. There are a large number preconditions that provide PacifiCorp with many opportunities to abandon dam removal; and

5. There is no definite date to return to the standard Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dam relicensing process – now suspended by the KHSA – if the agreements have not become law.

The Essential Improvements for the KBRA and KHSA are:

1. Agreed-upon removal of the lower four Klamath River dams owned by PacifiCorp;

2. Assured minimum river flows or minimum quantities of water for fish based on the best available science;

3.  Funding to implement a willing seller buyout program developed by Federal agencies subject to a transparent public review process to permanently reduce irrigation water demand to a level that will bring it back into balance with what is sustainable for healthy ecosystems;

4.  Phasing out the commercial farming program on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges  (See WaterWatch Action Alert on Comprehensive Conservation Plan Process for these refuges and WaterWatch’s backgrounder on the CCP process); and

5. Funding for needed Klamath Basin restoration work.

For more information on the proposed Klamath deal, please check out the following WaterWatch analyses:

WaterWatch Summary of Foundational Concerns With the KBRA and KHSA [PDF] 

WaterWatch Summary of the Impact of the KBRA On Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges [PDF] 

WaterWatch Summary on Unwarranted an Costly KBRA Subsidies [PDF]

WaterWatch Concerns and Recommendations Regarding Federal Legislation Required by the KBRA and KHSA [PDF]

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) Process [PDF]

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