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Both agreements depend on Congressional funding to move forward. Legislation to do so was referred to US House and Senate Committees in 2011. It may now be completely stuck.
Signatory tribes hailed the agreement as a path toward dam removal and fisheries restoration. The Hoopa Valley, Quartz Valley and Resighini tribes, however, did not sign. They argued that the agreements undermine priority tribal water rights and the Endangered Species Act. They argued that dam removal would be best achieved under Federal Power Act relicensing because the dams are in violation of the Clean Water Act. The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights does not favor one group of tribes over another in this dispute, but intends to expose the anti-Indian politics at work in this situation.
Given the size of the federal appropriations sought for Klamath Basin agreements ($1 billion for the first ten years of restoration), and the opposition of some tribes, the Klamath Tea Party Patriots probably did not alone and all by themselves prevent a stable agreement. They did, however, play an out-sized role. A Tea Party insurgency has reshaped the political landscape in the Klamath Basin. And Tea Party and allied property rights groups oppose these agreements (for reasons starkly different than the non-signing tribes), and seek policies that would displace tribal rights in the Klamath Basin in favor of irrigation and dams.
The Klamath Tea Party Patriots, with 109 online members, is affiliated with the national Tea Party Patriots, and the national network's founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler appeared at a Klamath Tea Party meeting in October 2010.
It appears as if the Tea Partiers' role in the May 2012 Republican Primary election for Klamath County Commission seats contributed to derailing the restoration act.
Tom Mallams, a self-proclaimed Klamath Tea Party Patriot member who opposes the KBRA, led the charge, defeating a 16 year incumbent in the primary. In addition, Republican Jim Bellet, who also opposed the Klamath Basin Restoration Act, defeated a first-term Commissioner.
Tom Mallams' background is in resource and agriculture politics. In addition to claiming memberships in cattle and farming associations, Mallams is President of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association. He also claims he received an endorsement from the Oregon Right to Life PAC. As president of the water users association, Mallams wrote,
“The dam removal and KBRA may have started out as a possible solution to the water problems in the Klamath River Basin, but the final product only takes water away from irrigated agriculture and gives it to fish. In my book, PEOPLE are more important than fish What exactly are the Klamath Tribes giving up in return for all of the large concessions in the KBRA and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement? Remember, they have no water right, only a claim ”
Other organizations combine Tea Party zealotry and "property rights" activism. Klamath Bucket Brigade Secretary Shirley Kerns, who supported Bellet in the county commission primary, is also an online member of the Klamath Tea Party Patriots. The bucket group opposes both the restoration act and the electro-power agreements, because they supposedly "represent a minority of special interest groups" and "spread(s) the cost to every taxpayer." The group alleges that the restoration act will give "control of the drought plan to government agencies, tribes and environmental groups" and claims that more water is needed for irrigation. The group further asserts that:
“Dam removal is a hoax, and aside from paying the 'stakeholders' billions, will not save the fish. How does the purchase of a 92,000 acre property for the Klamath Tribe save the fish? The dams contribute to CLEANER WATER!!! There is no conflict between agriculture and fishermen and native people except that which has been manufactured by environmental groups who are after the money and power,”
At the California end of the Klamath Basin, Jacqui Krizo of Tulelake, California also straddles the Tea Party and property rights movements. Krizo is both an online member of the Klamath Tea Party Patriots and an editor for Klamath Basin Crisis. This online forum touts itself as the voice of "Klamath Basin Farmers, Ranchers, Miners, Loggers, Indians and Fishermen." The group's website claims to be the initial the web home of the Klamath Water Users, Tulelake Growers Association and the Klamath Bucket Bridage. The KBC editor writes:
Chuck Tanner is an Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights Advisory Board Member and Research Director of Borderlands Research and Education. Borderlands is dedicated to using strategic research and education to support indigenous treaty rights and sovereignty.
posted August 7, 2012 7:59 am edt