Community gathers to celebrate water milestone
(Klamath Falls, OR) — Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Undersecretary of the Department of Commerce Kathryn Sullivan, California Resources Secretary John Laird, Klamath Tribal Chair Don Gentry, and members of the Klamath Basin Task Force gathered today along the banks of Spring Creek at Collier Memorial State Park for the official signing of the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement.
The historic agreement is the result of more than nine months of good-faith efforts from members of the Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin water users to develop solutions to water issues affecting the region. A draft Agreement was released in December for public review. The final Agreement, completed in March, details water management and restoration measures planned for the Upper Klamath Basin and reflects the commitment and hard work of people throughout the region.
"With patience and dedication, the Klamath Tribes and the Upper Basin water users have created something significant and lasting for the region and for the state," said Governor Kitzhaber. "This agreement is the last, missing piece in the puzzle that knits together California, Oregon, lower basin tribes, upper basin tribes, and irrigators. It reflects a spirit of sharing in times of shortage, and pulling together to rebuild the vitality of this river and all who depend upon it. I applaud the determination of everyone who has worked to move their communities forward. We now have the foundation for rebuilding prosperity throughout the basin."
"We're here today because many people had the courage and the vision to set aside differences and work together to change the status quo," said Secretary Jewell. "With the three Klamath agreements in place, we have the tools needed to restore the basin, advance the recovery of its fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the Tribes, and sustain our ranching heritage from the headwaters of the Klamath to the ocean."
"This historic agreement saves water, protects habitat, and provides economic certainty for the basin," said Senator Wyden. "This could only have happened through the hard work and dedication of the task force I created along with Senator Merkley, Congressman Walden, and Governor Kitzhaber. Now it is time for Congress to get to work and build on what has already been done."
"Today’s historic signing ceremony means that we can put the water wars of the past decades behind us and focus on supporting the diverse and vibrant rural economy here in the Klamath Basin," said Senator Merkley. "Everyone here today has proven that with hard work and goodwill, even the most controversial and longstanding challenges can be overcome. It has been an honor to stand with all of you in support of your good work over the last five years and I look forward to working with Senator Wyden and my colleagues in Congress to get legislation passed to make this agreement law."
"The agreement we celebrate today started with a powerful idea – the notion that we should all have a voice in deciding how this river would serve us, across all of our diverse interests, which, in the past, have collided in conflict," said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Undersecretary of the Department of Commerce.
Friday’s signing ceremony highlighted the economic and environmental benefits for the Klamath region. The Agreement will:
• Increase stream flows into Upper Klamath Lake by at least 30,000 acre feet per year through voluntary water use
• Provide stability for irrigated agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin
• Improve and protect riparian habitat
• Create economic opportunities for the Klamath Tribes and its members and increased opportunities for the exercise of
tribal cultural rights
Don Gentry, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said, "The recent approval of Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement by our members was a critical and positive step in achieving the long-established goals of the Klamath Tribes. This Agreement, in addition to the KBRA and KHSA previously approved by our people, will honor our time immemorial water rights and provide for the recovery and sustainability of our Tribal fisheries, plants, and other aquatic resources needed for the exercise of our Treaty Rights."
Roger Nicholson, an Upper Basin rancher, said, "Settlement will allow the social and economic healing of the agricultural and Tribal community, and once again establish a united community."
Garrett Roseberry, president of the Sprague River Water Resources Group, said, "After decades of legal battles, the Klamath Tribes and the Upper Basin irrigation committees - with the support of Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Rep. Greg Walden, and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber - have crafted an agreement that will create economic security and resource stability for the Klamath tribes and the Upper Basin community."
Representatives of the Klamath Tribes, Upper Basin irrigators, elected and government officials, and community members celebrated the milestone with a banquet hosted by the Klamath Tribes.
Rachel Wray, Office of Governor Kitzhaber, 503-559-1277
Matt Baun, US Fish & Wildlife, 530-841-3119
Tom Towslee, Office of Senator Wyden, 503-326-7539
Courtney Warner Crowell, Office of Senator Merkley, 503-326-2747
Department of the Interior, Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov