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SACRAMENTO - The Karuk Tribe and Klamath Tribes of Oregon reacted with favor to the US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's announcement on Monday that it may be in the best interest of the Klamath Basin to remove four dams.
"It's important to understand that this is about more than dam removal. This effort will restore fisheries while creating and protecting thousands of jobs in both fishing and agricultural communities. We have the diverse grassroots support that should spur congress to act," said Jeff Mitchell, Councilman for the Klamath Tribes.
Map:: US Fish and Wildlife Service
Beyond the Tribes, other organizations in the area of the Klamath Basin, which includes portions of northern California and southern Oregon, welcomed the news as well. A diverse group reacted to the positive findings in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the Department of Interior, and to comments made earlier this week by Interior Secretary Salazar. The Secretary will use this Draft Environmental Impact Statement to make his final determination in March of 2012 as to whether or not the removal of four Klamath River dams, in accordance with the Klamath Restoration Agreements, is in the public interest.
"For proponents of the Agreements, these studies are vindicating. We've said all along that the Klamath Agreements will boost salmon runs and the regional economy. With a diverse coalition of Tribes, farmers, fishermen, and conservation groups supporting the plan, it is time for Congress to act," said S. Craig Tucker, Klamath Coordinator of the Karuk Tribe.
"The Klamath tribe supports removing the dams. It is the most economically viable way to provide safe passage for salmon and steelhead, to historic spawning areas in the upper Klamath Basin, It is also the most feasible way to address water quality problems the dams create," the Klamath Tribes Vice Chairman Don Gentry said.
In a thorough review comparing the impacts of river restoration to current conditions, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement shows that implementation of the Agreements would provide significant economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits to Northern California and Southern Oregon. One of the key findings stakeholders applauded is that the projected cost of removing four dams on the Klamath River falls well within the range of the budget agreed to by Tribes, irrigators, fishermen, and dam owner PacifiCorp.
The Klamath Agreements were signed in February 2010 by over 40 stakeholder organizations from a broad-based coalition that includes irrigators, Tribes, fishermen, conservation groups, state and local governments - all groups seek to get beyond the endless litigation and fighting that preceded the Settlement Agreements.
Key features of the Agreements include reintroducing salmon to over 400 miles of historic habitat, increasing water storage and flood control by expanding Upper Klamath Lake, and improved water security for 1400 farm families on the Klamath Irrigation Project.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement makes several key findings that proponents of the Agreements hope will prompt Congress to pass the legislation necessary for implementation. Stakeholders emphasize the economic and health benefits, cost savings, and jobs creation that the restoration plan includes:
Combined, the Settlement Agreements invest over $700 million in the Klamath Basin over the next 15 years, and proponents stress that the restoration plan protects and enhance a regional natural resources economy that is worth over $750 million each year when healthy.
posted September 23, 2011 6:00 am edt
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