U.S. senators from Oregon and California introduced legislation Wednesday that's aimed at restoring the Klamath Basin ecosystem and enacting a water-sharing agreement in this arid region that straddles the two states.
The legislation puts into law the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, an accord that was negotiated and signed last month by ranchers, tribes, and federal and state officials, according to a statement issued by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
"The people of the basin have set aside their differences for the benefit of the region," Wyden said in the joint statement from the four senators. "Congress should follow their example, pass this legislation and put the Klamath Basin on the road to recovery."
The Senate bill gives congressional authorization to the U.S. Interior Department to act and achieve the agreement’s benefits. That includes a water-sharing agreement for ranchers and farmers, tribes, native fish runs and bird refuges. It also puts into law a plan to improve and protect streamside areas and provides economic aid for the Klamath tribes and their members.
In all, the Klamath Basin restoration is expected to cost about $495 million in federal spending. It also requires congressional authorization for the removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric dams owned and operated by PacifiCorp. Experts say that would be the largest dam removal in history.
Several groups signed onto a statement praising the new legislation, including Trout Unlimited, the Karuk Tribe, the Klamath Water Users Association, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, PacifiCorp, the Salmon River Restoration Council and the Upper Klamath Water Users.
We'll have more on this story later today.