Washington, DC – A Klamath Economic Restoration Act introduced today in the US Senate by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and in the House by California Congressman Mike Thompson deserves prompt Congressional action, said a growing group of bi-partisan supporters. A growing and diverse coalition representing tens of thousands of people including, ranchers, fishermen, Tribes, business owners, and conservationists say the Act’s collaborative solutions will end the ongoing water crises hurting Klamath communities that still have double digit unemployment figures (see partial list of Agreement supporters below).
Klamath Economic Recovery Act supporters stress that many livelihoods are at stake and now is the time to settle long-standing water rights disputes and avoiding catastrophes such as the 2001 water shut-off, 2002 fish kill, and the 2006 commercial salmon fishing closure.
“When disaster hit and litigation got drawn out, we were challenged by elected officials to develop our own solutions to the water crises that have devastated our communities,” said Steve Kandra, Klamath Basin farmer. “Together we did it and we’re part of a strong and growing constituency that expects our elected officials to seize this opportunity to end the Klamath Crisis.”
The legislation’s bi-partisan recommendations are based on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Agreements, companion documents that were developed by farming, fishing, tribal and environmental groups with support from both the Bush and Obama administrations as well as Governors Brown, Schwarzenegger, Kitzhaber, and Kulongoski. Jeff Mitchell, lead negotiator for the Klamath Tribes noted, “This bill is a marked departure from past attempts by one interest group to strong arm one another. Instead we’ve set aside ideological debates and focused on protecting everyone’s interests collectively. It’s exactly the type of win-win policy Congress should embrace.”
The legislation authorizes the Administration to carry out economic development and restoration activities laid out in the Klamath Settlement Agreements. It also provides the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to determine whether four aging dams should be removed. The Agreements are designed to provide security to commercial fishing and agricultural economies that when healthy are worth more than $750 million a year to the region, and employ thousands of people in rural areas suffering from high unemployment.
“This Congress has the opportunity to solve the Klamath Crisis. Failure to act will mean more lost jobs and a continuation of the economic insecurity that is destroying our rural communities,” said Becky Hyde, an Upper Basin rancher.
Reflecting on the challenges of working with Congress, Glen Spain, representing the commercial fishing industry emphasized: “Our rural communities simply can’t afford to do nothing. That’s a recipe for another round of catastrophes like the fish kill and irrigation shut-off. We desperately need Congress to act now.”
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For more on the most recent federal and state dam removal environmental analysis and federal and state decision-making process, see:
For a full list of supporting agencies, organizations and governments go to: http://www.klamathrestoration.org/restoration-partners.html