Klamath Basin Task Force Looks For Water Crises Solutions

By Devan Schwartz

Groups with an interest in the Klamath Basin are holding a series of meetings in southern Oregon, in a search for permanent solutions to the water crisis there. A new task force met for the first time Thursday in Medford.

The stakes are high in the Klamath Basin: drought conditions, ranches with no water, salmon dying in the river, and wildlife refuges drying up.

Oregon’s senators are onboard to find a solution, along with Rep. Greg Walden, Gov. Kitzhaber and delegates from California.

State of Oregon natural resources director Richard Whitman had a simple message for the Klamath Basin task force: use it or lose it.

“We’ve really got the participation on the federal level to be able to make some significant progress here.”

A main point of debate is whether to pursue a water settlement agreement known as the KBRA. Many stakeholders helped design the KBRA, while others fiercely oppose it.

The agreement was developed to protect agriculture, tribal interests, fish and wildlife. Yet the KBRA has never advanced in Congress.

Many conservation groups support the KBRA.

“Everybody has something to gain and something to lose and we should be respectful of all that and try to find ways to get the collaborative solution that can really be lasting and help us live together in the Basin,” says Brian Johnson of Trout Unlimited.

Vice-chair of the Hoopa Valley Tribe Ryan Jackson says the settlement agreements focus too much on supplying water to agriculture.

“The Hoopa Valley Tribe have considerable interests in fishing water rights in the lower Klamath that are being adversely impacted because of the agreements that are on the table now.”

The Klamath Basin Task Force will meet three more times. By September 10, Sen. Ron Wyden expects their recommendations for how to improve the water crisis.

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