Sens. Wyden and Merkley, Rep. Walden, and Gov. Kitzhaber Form Klamath River Basin Task Force

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Congressman Greg Walden, and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber today announced the creation of a task force to make recommendations on a long-term solution to water and power issues in the Klamath River Basin. The task force is charged with developing specific recommendations that build on prior basin agreements by September 10, 2013. 

In a bipartisan letter sent last week, Wyden, Merkley, Walden and Kitzhaber asked stakeholders to negotiate a long-term plan for successful farming and ranching in the Upper Basin, sustainable ?sheries, and affordable power rates for on-project and off-project farming and ranching operations.

“The current crises in the Basin require the immediate attention, leadership, and constructive efforts of us all,” they wrote in the letter. “It is clear that now is the time to move for a comprehensive and lasting solution that protects the vast natural resources of the basin, while also providing the stability and certainty needed for the region’s economy to continue to thrive.”

The task force includes more than 20 members from Oregon and California representing a range of interests and is being coordinated by Richard Whitman, Governor Kitzhaber's natural resources policy advisor. Congressional staff from Oregon and California also will participate in the effort. The group plans to meet regularly over the next ten weeks.

Many of the stakeholders invited to participate in the task force appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing in June to discuss the Klamath River Basin issues.

The delegation and Governor asked the task force to address the following:

-        First, a settlement of water management issues in the upper Klamath Basin. It would include:

  • At least 30,000 acre feet of increased water inflows into Upper Klamath Lake through a voluntary program to idle water usage;
  • Permanent restoration and protection of significant riparian areas in the Wood, Sprague, and Williamson basins, as well as other tributaries to Upper Klamath Lake, that will improve water quality and habitat needed for fisheries
  • Regulatory assurances for water and land uses in the Upper Basin, both through a negotiated settlement of how state water rights are exercised, and for compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act

-        Second, outstanding power issues for the Klamath Basin Project and the Upper Klamath Basin irrigators

-        Third, reducing the overall cost to the federal government of the Klamath Basin measures

Invited members of the task force (or their representatives) include:

  1. California Natural Resources Agency, Secretary John Laird
  2. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Director Charlton H. Bonham
  3. Oregon Water Resources Department, Director Phillip Ward
  4. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Director Roy Elicker
  5. U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary Sally Jewell
  6. National Marine Fisheries Service, Acting Assistant Administrator Samuel Rauch, III
  7. Klamath Tribes, Chairman Don Gentry
  8. Yurok Tribe, Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke, Sr.
  9. Karuk Tribe, Council Chairman Russell Attebery
  10. Klamath Water Users, Executive Director Greg Addington
  11. Upper Klamath Water Users Association, Board Member Becky Hyde
  12. Sprague River, Garrett Roseberry
  13. Resource Conservancy & Fort Klamath Critical Habitat Landowners, President Roger Nicholson
  14. American Rivers, Richard Roos-Collins, Principal at Water & Power Law Group PC
  15. California Trout, Executive Director Jeff Thompson 
  16. Sustainable Northwest, Founder & President Martin Goebel
  17. PacifiCorp, President & CEO of Pacific Power Patrick Reiten
  18. Bonneville Power Administration, Administrator Bill Drummond
  19. Klamath Water and Power Authority, Executive Director Hollie Cannon
  20. Hoopa Valley Tribal Council, Chairman Leonard Matsen, Jr.
  21. WaterWatch of Oregon, Executive Director John DeVoe
  22. Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), NW Regional Director Glen Spain
  23. Oregon Wild, Executive Director Sean Stevens

The letter inviting stakeholders to participate in the task force is here.