Thursday February 15, 2024

San Francisco Chronicle

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it has brokered a “historic” agreement between tribes and farmers in the Klamath Basin over chronic water shortages, a problem that has fueled enduring water wars in the rural area along the California-Oregon border.

For decades, the Klamath, Yurok and Karuk tribes have been fighting to maintain sufficient water for fish in the basin — sometimes different fish with competing needs. At the same time, farmers in the region’s upper reaches have wanted more water to grow potatoes, alfalfa, wheat and onions.

The federal government, which controls much of the basin’s water supply through the Klamath Project, has found itself in the unenviable position of not having enough to provide for agriculture or enough to leave in the watershed for wildlife, including fish, particularly as droughts have intensified with climate change. Dam removal on the Klamath River, downstream of the water project, has raised both the profile of the area’s water challenges and the stakes for solving them. Securing the water situation upstream will help with the river restoration intended with dam demolition.

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