November 14, 2014

Wyden Bill to Implement Landmark Klamath Basin Agreement Passes Energy Committee

Challenge Now Moves to the Full Senate

Washington, D.C. – Legislation by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to implement landmark water resources agreements in the Klamath Basin passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today. It now moves to the full Senate.

The Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act (S. 2379) would comprehensively settle water rights disputes in favor of collaborative solutions to water management in the basin. The bill provides an end to the water wars that made the Klamath Basin a national symbol of natural resources conflicts more than a decade ago.

“This consensus bill is the work of irrigators, tribes and local officials who put in the work to find a real solution to the basin’s long-running resources conflict. Congress owes them nothing less than to pass this bill into law,” said Wyden, who thanked the bill’s cosponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, for working to iron out the bill’s final details in recent weeks.

The bill implements a historic agreement that was the result of more than nine months of good-faith efforts from members of the Klamath Tribes, Basin water users and Interior officials to develop solutions to water issues affecting the region. Efforts began in 2002 and gained new momentum following a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that Wyden led last year. A draft Agreement was released in December for public review. The final agreement, completed in April, details water management and restoration measures planned for the Klamath Basin and reflects the commitment and hard work of people throughout the region.

The bill passed on Thursday included a handful of changes to generate additional support, including:

-  Further reducing the cost of the bill – once projected at hundreds of millions of dollars – so it will generate no new direct government spending.

-  To ensure states are onboard with decisions about removal of Klamath Basin dams, the bill gives the Governors of Oregon and California and the Secretary of Interior joint authority to approve or deny dam removal proposals.