A major water rights agreement in the Klamath Basin is set to expire in December 31st. Amelia Templeton from our EarthFix team reports that farmers, tribes, and power company PacifiCorp are getting behind an extension.
The Klamath restoration deal was inked two years ago, with a lot of celebration, and even a cameo from then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger: “I can see already that the salmon fish is screaming I’ll be back.”
The deal settled decades of lawsuits over water rights in the basin on the Oregon- California border.
It won support from tribes and commercial fishers because it set a timeline to remove four dams on the Klamath River.
Farmers signed on too-- it gave them a predictable water supply.
But congress still hasn’t passed a bill approving the deal.
Bob Gravely is a spokesman for power company PacifiCorp.
Gravely: “The bills were just introduced you know, the end of 2011 and there wasn’t much that happened in congress last year… at all.”
Without approval from congress, the deal is set to expire at the end of the year. But Gravely isn’t worried. He says even though Congress is blowing its deadline, PacifiCorp is still on track to remove the dams by 2020.
Gravely: “Nothing that’s happened at this point has affected that deadline. We’re continuing to do the work that needs to be done with federal agencies to hand over the dams.”
About half the farmers and irrigators that are party to the deal have voted in favor of extending it for two more years.
And the Klamath Tribes will vote on an extension next month.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio