San Jose Mercury News
Ranchers and the Klamath Tribes signed a tentative deal Monday in Klamath Falls for sharing water in the drought-stricken Upper Klamath Basin.
The rest of a special task force on water issues were to join them Tuesday at the Oregon Institute of Technology to announce the 17-page agreement in principle.
Their goal is to reach a final agreement early next year that will guide legislation to be offered by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden to break a logjam in Congress over resolving Klamath water battles. Republicans in the House have blocked legislation to implement existing agreements to remove four dams from the Klamath River to help struggling salmon runs, restore environmental damage from a century of irrigation development in the Klamath Basin, and provide a higher level of certainty for farmers on a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border that has had to shut off services to conserve water for protected fish.
Under the tentative deal, ranchers on the Wood, Williamson and Sprague rivers would agree to significantly cut water use to help provide for farmers on the Klamath Restoration Project downstream, and support fish habitat restoration projects and tribal economic projects, such as securing federal money to buy back private timberlands once part of the reservation. The tribes would agree not to cut off irrigation if ranchers significantly reduce their irrigation withdrawals. The agreement supports low-cost federally generated electricity to help ranchers reduce water pumping costs.