Salmon River Restoration Council Approves Delayed Klamath Deal Deadline

Josh Saxon, executive director of Salmon River Restoration Council, said the small watershed group endorsed the time extension for the KBRA by a unanimous vote, a larger approval than the board granted when the Klamath water and restoration agreements were first passed two years ago./Photo by Malcolm Terence.

By MALCOLM TERENCE, TRT Contributing Writer

When the directors of the Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) met recently to consider whether to extend the sunset date for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), they got a big surprise.

Felice Pace, a longtime forest activist and a vocal opponent of many parts of the KBRA, lobbied the  SRRC board to sign on to the time extension. Just weeks earlier he had unsuccessfully tried to talk Humboldt County into refusing to sign in hopes that it would end the agreements before they were fashioned into federal legislation.

A few days after the SRRC meeting, the Klamath Tribes announced that their members had voted 508 to 77 in favor of the same extensions. Similarly, all the parties that signed the original agreement signed on to the extension before the expiration deadline. The 42 Parties include tribes, irrigation districts, conservation groups, fishermen, and local and state governments.

SRRC is a small watershed group that had a seat in the lengthy Klamath settlement talks. The talks were intended to end the lawsuits and recriminations over water use in the basin and to remove a series of four hydroelectric dams that straddle the California-Oregon border.

The KBRA was set to expire at the end of 2012 if there was no legislation to implement it. A second linked agreement called the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) did not have an expiration date.

Felice Pace writes at klamblog.blogspot.com, often criticizing the KBRA. He said he recommended approval for the Salmon River group because he didn’t think their defection would stop the KBRA’s momentum. A no-vote by a major signatory like Humboldt County or the Klamath Tribes might.

Another online source for extensive information about both agreements is www.klamathrestoration.gov.

SRRC president Peter Brucker was part of the Klamath talks for several years and he agreed that SRRC was wisest to hold its seat at the table.

Josh Saxon, SRRC’s executive director, said the group’s vote on the extension was unanimous, a stronger vote than when the board first considered the KBRA two years earlier.
He said that he and Brucker were seeking clarifications of other items that were bundled with the extensions and would report back to the board. Saxon, a member of the Karuk Tribe, has begun attending the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council with Brucker. The KBCC is the follow-up group of many of the parties that were in the settlement talks.

He expressed special concern that PacifiCorp, the power company that runs the dams, had begun using substances to reduce algae in the water without advance notice. Such actions alienate the public, he said.
The news of the Klamath Tribes approval of the extensions was made by Taylor David, their public information manager. She said, besides extending the sunset date, the new agreements clarify the federal partnership between the tribes and the federal government.

Jeff Mitchell is the lead negotiator for the Klamath Tribes in the settlement talks and a member of their tribal council. He said, “The KBRA amendment process itself is a reminder that the KBRA is an effective, flexible, adaptive and efficient tool to address Klamath Basin water matters and an example of how things are working under the KBRA.

The Klamath Tribes are composed of the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin people and has about 3,500 members. The tribal entity and its reservation were terminated by the federal government in 1954 in an effort to assimilate its people. In 1974 the US Supreme Court upheld tribal hunting and fishing rights and in 1986 Congress rescinded the termination.

Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, said that the other items nested in the time-extension amendment were not substantive but were, rather, clarifications of intent.

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