Governor Kitzhaber, Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor joined today with members of the Klamath Basin Task Force and Upper Basin Water Group to announce the successful completion of work by the Task Force and an agreement in principle on Upper Basin water and economic issues.
Over the past six months, the water subgroup of the Task Force, which includes representatives of the upper Klamath Basin agricultural community and the Klamath Tribes and state and federal representatives, has been working to develop solutions to outstanding water and resource management issues. The solutions are outlined in an agreement in principle, released earlier this week. The agreement also addresses ways to improve the economic condition of the Klamath Tribes. The agreement in principle on water completed one part of the charge to the Task Force to address the continuing conflicts over water use in the upper basin.
The full Klamath Basin Task Force held its final meeting yesterday, December 3, to review the agreement in principle on water, proposals to reduce the federal costs of the Klamath agreements, and ways to provide affordable power for irrigators. The group's final report includes recommendations to Senators Wyden and Merkley, Congressman Walden, and Governor Kitzhaber, completing the charge of the Task Force while building on years of prior work and laying the foundation for federal legislation that will make permanent success possible.
"This is a momentous day because it shows that Oregon's reputation as a place where people find solutions to tough problems is well-earned," said Governor Kitzhaber. "Between the Agreement and the Task Force recommendations, we are poised to move forward with federal legislation that supports a stable agricultural economy and sustainable ﬁsheries."
"This comprehensive Klamath Basin agreement will be the foundation for legislation that will come before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources early next year," Senator Wyden said. "This agreement obviously didn't happen by osmosis. On issue after issue, the members of the task force agreed to give up their right to obstruct in the name of the greater good. The task force has built on good work done in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, and now we have a game plan for economic development, agricultural prosperity, and environmental restoration throughout the basin."
"Getting to today's agreements has been a long and challenging journey. To all those involved, I say, "well done!'" said U.S. Senator Merkley. "These agreements will create a stronger farming and ranching economy for the region and a healthier Klamath River Basin, which is an enormous stride forward. I look forward to helping propel this legislation forward in Congress."
"We look forward to working with all of the stakeholders in the coming months as we move forward in finalizing and implementing the Klamath Agreements, including the KBRA and the KHSA," said Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor, who represented the Department of the Interior at today's event. "We cannot take care of ourselves if we fail to also take care of our neighbors, and this agreement in principle helps pave the way for long-term solutions rooted in collaboration. I applaud Governor Kitzhaber, Senators Wyden and Merkley, Chairman Gentry and the members of the Task Force who have worked tirelessly to reach this important milestone."
Following input from community members, the agreement in principle will be finalized in early 2014, leading to the introduction of federal legislation thereafter.