Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Upper Klamath Tribes, Farmers Announce Tentative Agreement

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM

click to enlarge Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry and Oregon Governor's Office Natural Resources Policy Director Richard Whitman. - COURTESY OF THE KLAMATH TRIBES
  • Courtesy of the Klamath Tribes
  • Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry and Oregon Governor's Office Natural Resources Policy Director Richard Whitman.
Klamath Tribes and Oregon irrigators have reached an "agreement in principle" over the long-disputed waters of the Upper Klamath Basin, saying the groups will work toward a common goal of improving fisheries, water quality and agricultural sustainability in the region.

Upper Klamath farmers were dismayed earlier this year when the Oregon Water Resources Department ordered irrigation shutoffs

The agreement was "built on the foundation" of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, a dam removal and river restoration plan agreed upon by tribes, fishing industry groups and Pacificorp, which owns hydroelectric dams on the Trinity. Despite recommendations from the federal government, the KBRA has yet to gain traction in Congress.

In a press release the Klamath Tribes called this week's agreement in principle with irrigators a "critical step toward resolving Upper Klamath Basin water and fisheries disputes not previously addressed in the KBRA."

The tribes will hold several meetings this month to provide information about the agreement and the continuing negotiations toward a final agreement.

From the Klamath Tribes:

On December 2, 2013 Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry and representatives of the Upper Klamath Basin “Off-Project” Irrigators met at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon to sign an Agreement in Principle (AIP).

The AIP, built on the foundation laid by the Tribal member-approved Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), is the result of meetings initiated by Senator Ron Wyden among the Klamath Tribes, Upper Basin Irrigators and federal and state representatives. Negotiated over several months, the AIP provides a framework based on a common set of principles and concepts that the Parties will share with their respective constituents. It represents a critical step toward resolving Upper Klamath Basin water and fisheries disputes not previously addressed in the KBRA. In addition to resolving water and fisheries issues, the AIP is intended to result in a Final Agreement that will provide support for the economic development interests of the Klamath Tribes, provide a stable, sustainable basis for the continuation of agriculture in the Upper Klamath basin, and improve fisheries habitat and water quality by restoring and managing riparian corridors along streams that flow into Upper Klamath Lake.

“Negotiating and signing this agreement is a very important and positive step in the efforts of the Klamath Tribes and irrigation community to resolve years of ongoing conflicts and court battles over water management affecting the Tribes’ fisheries and other Treaty resources, and the economic stability of our community,” stated Don Gentry, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes. He added: “With the AIP in place, the Klamath Tribes Negotiation Team (KTNT) and other parties will intensify our efforts to continue the hard work of negotiating a Final Agreement that will meet Tribal needs, and the needs our neighbors.”

Klamath Tribes Negotiation Team members include Chairman Gentry, Vice-Chair Vivian Kimbol, Tribal Council members Anna Bennett and Kathy Hill, Tribal member Jeff Mitchell and Tribal biologist Larry Dunsmoor. The work of the KTNT is supported by Native American Rights Fund attorney David Gover. The KTNT and Tribal Council will provide information about the AIP, work toward a Final Agreement and the prospective legislative process at a series of Tribal member community meetings.

The first series of meetings is scheduled as follows:

December 17: Klamath Falls – Klamath Tribal Health (3949 S. Sixth St.), 6-8 p.m.
December 18: Chiloquin – Klamath Tribes Administration Auditorium (501 Chiloquin Blvd.), 6-8 p.m.
December 19: Eugene – U of O Many Nations Longhouse, 6-8 p.m.
December 20: Portland – Double Tree Inn (Lloyd Center), 6-8 p.m.

If and when a Final Agreement is reached, it will be subject to the approval of the Klamath Tribes General Council.

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Grant Scott-Goforth

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Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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